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Global Distribution System ( GDS )
The GDS is the most widely used front office application, providing professionals with the tools required to investigate travel options and make bookings
With GDS (Global Distribution Systems) we refer to the technology companies that provide electronic distribution services to the travel industry. These companies were initially called CRSs (Computerised Reservation Systems) and evolved in parallel to the air travel market .
In the early days air travellers were relatively few, and each airlines
routes and fares were tightly regulated by the Civil Aeronautic authorities. As time evolved,demand for air transport increased and schedules grew more complex, rendering the until then man-driven booking process impractical. CRS took shape in response to airlines´ inability to monitor their inventory of available seats manually. The CRS functionality expanded greatly as the technology provided a base for generating flight plans, tracking spare parts, and scheduling crews and evolved into a computerized go-between linking suppliers of travel and related services to retailers and customers.
Because of the strategic advantage emanating from increases in yield, in-house CRSs were considered valuable assets by airlines. The first system, SABRE, was introduced in 1960 by American Airlines and by 1964 was the largest civil data processing centre in the world. Terminals were installed in the travel agencies´offices connecting them to the airline and reservations started being made remotely without the need of a phone call or fax. Other airlines soon established their own systems and soon travel agents began pushing for a system that could automate their side of the process, i.e. enable them to access all different airlines on one single system.
European airlines also began to invest in the field in the 1980s, propelled by growth in demand for travel and the imminent entry of competing American airlines´ systems into Europe. In 1987, a consortium among Air France, Lufthansa, SAS and Iberia developed Amadeus and in 1993 another consortium (including British Airways, KLM, United Airlines,and Alitalia, among others) formed Galileo. Though initially perceived and used by the airlines, CRSs soon extended their reservation services to other travel providers such as hotel and car rental companies, tours, cruises, and railroads. GDSs now allow travel providers to market and sell their flight and fare information through a travel network of more than 150,000 travel agency locations worldwide and provide the booking engine to most travel e-commerce companies and airline web pages. GDSs, progressively consolidated their position to only four major systems: Sabre, Amadeus, Worldspan and Galileo (the two latter wholly owned since 2006 by Travelport and marketed under the same umbrella) with backing from the airlines that had created and funded. For a few years starting in the late 1990s, all existing GDS were spun off to the stock markets raising their value considerably before getting again all privatised over the last two years, this time with the airline owners divesting their parts.
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