GDS Explained: How do Travel Management Companies book business travel requirements?

3 min read

I had an interesting meeting with a prospective client recently, who was clearly switched on about their company’s business travel programme, however, they didn’t really understand how a Travel Management Company (TMC) operated in terms of procuring our various travel services. My client commented “So I take it your travel consultants use comparison websites like Skyscanner to search the best fares for our company?”

This made me realise how the internet gives the perception that business travel consultants and TMC’s spend their days “googling” all day long, which dare I say it, can seem to de-skill an experienced business travel consultant’s many years of knowledge, technical IT system training and experience!

So where do Travel Management Companies obtain rates for your business travel requirements?


TMC’s gain IATA (International Air Transport Association) accreditation which is a seal of approval and recognised worldwide. This organisation facilitates the settlement of passenger sales from Travel Management Companies to airlines.  

#2 GDS

A TMC uses a Global Distribution System (GDS) which is a computer platform operated by the TMC that enables automated transactions between travel service providers (airlines, hotels and car rental companies). The three main systems out there are Amadeus, Travelport’s – Galileo and Sabre.

Travel professionals train for a long period to become fully experienced in using these complex systems. The travel industry is full of acronyms, abbreviations and codes so our staff’s knowledgeable brains store thousands of these codes enabling them to work out the best route and fare type, and ultimately maximise savings on an air ticket or hotel room. The human touch and know-how still wins hands down over the internet comparison sites any day!

Each and every flight shown on the GDS is broken down into “classes” represented by a letter (EG: within each Economy cabin there are a range of letters representing each fare type from Y full fare to X lowest available fare) The booking class determines the price and booking conditions of the fare.

GDS systems enable travel consultants to book flights quickly and efficiently (much faster than internet sites) and create any range of flight combinations to ensure the best fare is found for every journey and multiple sectors. This functionality is simple not possible using the internet.

#3 Buying Power

In addition to GDS systems forward thinking independent TMC’s will look to boost their buying power and global partnership capabilities by joining an alliance such as Uniglobe or Advantage Travel Partnership.

Such partnerships enjoy specially negotiated fares and rates with airlines and hotels, enabling the TMC to pass on these savings to their customers via an Account Manager. Independent TMC’s can forge long standing working partnerships with like-minded counterparts in other countries to offer an effective and seamless service to customers with a global presence.