Earlier I talked about the structure of the travel industry. We saw how the industry can be divided into five parts: Suppliers, inventory management, distribution, sales and market.
Today I would like to just focus on the distribution and the inventory management and therefore on the differences between CRS (central reservation systems) and GDS (global distribution systems).
In the travel distribution we can find lots of many to many relationships instead of 1:1 relationships. So how do these relationships look like? Well, one supplier provides its fare to many distributors. A traveler on the other side has the opportunity to book inventory from multiple suppliers. How this works? Well, that’s easy to explain: You might want to take a flight from the United States to Europe with your favorite airline and from there you might want to go on vacation and visit Asia. But regarding the second flight, you might prefer a lower price, so you might want to choose another airline.
In this example, you might book your first flight directly via the website of the provider and the second flight direct via an inventory system. That’s why an agency can use e.g. Sabre as a distribution system for booking a Lufthansa flight, which Passenger Name Record (PNR) is then sitting in the Amadeus reservation system (inventory system). As the inventory is managed by the central reservation system (also known as computer reservation system), I would like to shortly give you some information on this. CRS were originally operated by airlines and later extended for the use of travel agencies. So what is a CRS? It is a computerized system used to e.g. store and retrieve passenger information related to air travel, hotels, rail, car rentals and anything like that.
More about Travel Technology
- What Is Full Content?
- What Is a Booking Reference or PNR?
- What Is Overbooking?
- What Is a Passenger Service System (PSS)?
- What Are Booking, Waitlist, Ticket, Codeshare & Interlining?
- What Are Active and Passive Segments?
- What Are Incentives, Commission & Overrides?
- The reality behind NDC: Why NDC won’t break down the GDS oligopoly – yet
- What is a ‘married segment’?
CRS and GDS as two distinct steps
For a long time the GDS had a dominant position in the travel industry, but in order to bypass them and consequently avoid their fees, airlines have started to distribute flights directly from their websites. Another option to bypass them would be to use direct connections to sales entities such as travel agencies. Today approximately every five years GDS are in heavy negotiations about (full) content and distributions fees with airlines.
From time to time airlines and CRSs are also discussing a switch to a new hosting system (inventory system), but this is far less often since it involves a huge technical migration with many risks. American Airlines recently abandoned their envisioned migration from Sabre to HP. Mergers sometimes also require a transition to a combined CRS. So what is important: The GDS usually operate the CRS and that is why most people consider the terms GDS and CRS synonymous. However I don’t! I consider those as two different steps of value creation: inventory management (CRS) and distribution (GDS).
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