Global distribution systems (GDSs) are computerized, centralized services that provide travel-related transactions. They cover everything from airline tickets to car rentals to hotel rooms and more.
Global distribution systems were originally usually set up for use by the airlines but were later extended to travel agents. Today, global distribution systems allow users to purchase tickets from multiple different providers or airlines. Global distribution systems are also the back end of most Internet-based travel services.
However, different global distribution systems still service a limited number of airlines. For example, Sabre is used by American Airlines, PARS by USAir, TravelSky by Air China, Worldspan by Delta, etc.
To see how global distribution systems work, let's take a closer look at one of the biggies: Amadeus. Amadeus is used by over 90,000 travel agency locations and over 32,000 airline sales offices for the distribution and selling of travel services. The service processes more than 480 million transactions per day, and over 3 million total bookings per day (that's a lot!). As many as 74 million passenger name records can be active at the same time. In terms of airline partners, Amadeus services leading airlines such as British Airways, Qantas, Lufthansa, and more.
To recoup money, over the past few years many airlines have pushed travelers to purchasing tickets directly from the airline websites.
Business travelers who are interested in the best airline fares may want to review our list of the best ways to get the best air fares.