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12 Aug

Find Out The Secret To The Travel Agent’s Work

By: Michael Schoenberger


A very common question is why are travel agents around when everything can be done online?

The answer is simple, your local travel agent has a secret weapon. Well, it’s not really a secret, airlines, hotels and car rental companies all know about it- you just don’t know about it. Now you are about to.

The Weapon

The secret weapon is called the Global Distribution System. A GDS application is the booking system that professional travel agents use to book travel reservations. A GDS is the fastest way to display the most information at one time. If you have any seen a travel agent work, their screens are filled with an endless stream of letters and numbers.

GDS’s- The Beginning

The airline industry computerized early on.The problem in the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s for GDS was bandwidth. The transmission technology did not exist to transmit large amounts of data quickly. As a result everything got abbreviated to the smallest possible extent and GDS systems transmitted just small packets of information containing coded information.

To a trained travel professional this info is very visual. A travel agent doesn’t see simple letters and number, they see airlines, hotels and car rentals. And the information displayed isn’t just for one airline, but for all that are on a particular route and with all the fare buckets displayed. A fare bucket is a booking category and on most airlines over a dozen fare buckets will exist for the exact same seat. When you go to book a flight on a major airline they will show you, if you are lucky, a couple of buckets. Travel agents see them all.

Many people will tell you that they were able to book a cheaper flight then what a travel agent offered them. So what good is all that information if you don’t get the cheapest flights?

The Good Fight- Value vs Cheap

Cheapest vs best value are completely different propositions. Let say you are going from New York to London and the cheapest business class fare is $ 4700.00. Your travel agent books you on a $ 4900.00 ticket and you think they are crazy- you could book it yourself on-line and pocket $ 200.00. Well the difference is probably that your $ 4700.00 fare comes with a bunch of restrictions- like an annoying $ 300.00 change fee every single time you change it, while the travel agent ticket is completely changeable without a fee. Travel plans change a lot so not paying a fee every time they do so is welcome.

Fare Victory


The biggest advantage that a GDS gives a travel agent is that they can search for information in numerous ways that are unavailable to normal consumers. When booking on an airline website, a consumer can basically just search for fares by travel dates. A GDS allows an agent to search for information by fare rule which allows for many options.

Once desirable fares are identified the agent can read through the rules to find the tricks for getting that lowest rate. An example of why this is important can be illustrated by this example:

If you book a connecting ticket through a particular airline you have no way of knowing if that connection is the cheapest for you.A professional travel agent, using a GDS, would know that fare exists and a GDS allows an agent to request a particular routing. That’s a GDS secret weapon trick that may allow for a $ 250 saving on a coach class ticket.

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