Whats is GDS in Travel Industry?

What is GDS

Whats is GDS?

GDS stands for “Global Distribution System”, it’s not a reservation system but a network runs by a company to connect in real-time vendors like airlines & hotels with online travel agencies!

How GDS works?

When someone use KAYAK to travel from New York to spend time in Thailand then Philippines and then travel back home to New York, Booking.com forward the request to its GDS company (Amadeus CRS), then the GDS company distribute the requests to multiple airlines like “KLM, United Airlines, Qatar Airways, etcc..” to get information about the available fights & their prices.

GDS” by SahirshahOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

History of GDS

I believe that the GDS’s history can be summed up into the history of both Sabre & Amadeus.

In the 1950s, the American Airlines had a serious problem to handle the growth of airlines reservation, before Sabre came to life, all the flights reservations were handled manually, using techniques originally developed back in 1920s. In 1952 while American Airlines was in the process of introducing their new Magnetronic Reservisor, which was an electromechanical computer. A high ranked sales man from IBM sales man was flying on an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles back to IBM in New York in 1953. He found himself sitting next to American Airlines president C. R. Smith. Noting that they shared a family name, they began talking about reservation problems and then a month later IBM send a research proposal to American Airlines, suggesting that they really study the problem and see if an “electronic brain” could actually help. Later then a formal development arrangement was signed in 1957, and the first experimental system went online in 1960 as Sabre.
In 1987 Air France, Iberia, Lufthansa & Scandinavian Airlines System decided to build their own GDS called Amadeus in order to connect providers’ content with travel agencies and consumers in real time. It was intended to offer a European alternative to the American GDS Sabre. Amadeus was built on the core of an another GDS called SystemOne, which was created earlier to compete Sabre. In 1989, seven more airlines joined Amadeus and began to allow travel agents to book flights through neutral CRS screens. After the collapse of Berlin wall, Amadeus expanded it’s business to cover the whole of Eastern Europe & established a new data processing centre in Erding, Germany in 1990.
On April 2011 Google acquired ITA, a company created an airfare search and pricing system called QPX back in the mid-nineties by a group of MIT computer scientists. [source]

Major GDS companies:

  • Sabre: the system was built by IBM for American Airlines in 1960 then it was separated from American Airlines to become Sabre Holdings in 2000.
  • Abacus: Purchased by Sabre in 2015 for $411 million. Serves the Asian region & used by China Airlines & Malaysia Airlines.
  • Amadeus CRS: was created in 1987, it was intended to offer a European alternative to the American GDS Sabre.
  • Apollo: founded in 1971, owned by Travelport
  • Galileo: founded in 1987, owned by Travelport
  • Worldspan: founded in 1990, owned by Travelport
  • Navitaire: founded in 1993 (as PRA Solutions LLC) & then in 2001 as Navitaire LLC, typically works with low-cost carriers (LCC) and hybrid airlines.
  • Axess (CRS): Founded in 1991, serves in the Japanese market, partnered with Sabre Holdings in 1995.
  • TravelSky: is a Chinese State-owned enterprise, created in 2001.


Useful Resources:

How air travel distribution works on the internet?

Read Yu Kuo‘s answer to How do ITA, Orbitz, Kayak, and Hipmunk differ in terms of structure and function? on Quora

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