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Introduction to airline reservation systems



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  • 1. Introduction March 2009 Airline reservation systems
  • 2. Agenda
    • Key airline terms
    • Introduction to Computerized Reservation
    • Overview of Global Distribution Systems
  • 3. Key airline terms
  • 4. Important terms
    • Aircraft : A vehicle capable of air transport, such as an airplane, a helicopter, etc.
    • Airline : A company that provides air transport services for passengers or freight under license from a recognized public authority. Also known as Carrier in some geographies
    • Scheduled airline : An airline that operates its flights to a fixed schedule, i.e. flight timings are fixed
  • 5. Important terms
    • Charter airline : An airline whose flights do not have a fixed schedule
    • Cabin : A class of service usually identified by a unique set of services offered (e.g. Economy, Business, First, etc.)
    • Flight : A trip made by an aircraft between two geographical locations
  • 6. Important terms (continued…)
    • Itinerary : A route of journey proposed by a traveler
    • Ticket : (Usually) a printed piece of paper or card showing that its holder has the right to use services on one or more specific flights
    • Travel agency : A business that attends to the travel needs of an individual or a group of individuals
  • 7. History of Computerized Reservation Systems
  • 8. Background
    • Airlines need to maintain multiple types of information
      • Route information : Covers the destinations served by the airline
      • Aircraft information : Information on the aircrafts used by the airline
      • Schedule information : Covers information on days and times on which the flights operated by the airline are scheduled to run
      • Fare information : Prices for various flights
      • Reservation information : Passenger and cargo reservations, including information on passenger tickets
  • 9. Background (continued…)
    • Prior to 1950 all this information was published by airlines in large books, with separate books for each type of information
    • Travel agents had a really tough time looking through multiple books for booking tickets that covered multiple airlines
    • It was impossible to get a real-time view of the inventory (available seats on a flight) since airlines could synchronize data from multiple locations only once a day
  • 10. Background (continued…)
    • In order to make a booking, a customer would call up a travel agent, providing them details of their itinerary
    • Travel agent would first look up airlines, flights and schedules matching the customer’s itinerary
    • Customer would then call up individual airlines to check seat availability
    • Once seat availability was confirmed, travel agent would look up the price appropriate for the flights selected and inform the customer
    • Upon confirmation from the customer, travel agent would call the airlines back to reserve the seats
  • 11. Background (continued…)
    • In 1950 American Airlines decided to set up a computerized system that would allow real-time access to all its data across all its offices and travel agents
    • As a result, Semi-Automated Business Research Environment , or SABRE was born in 1964. It was the first computerized airline system (CRS) in the world
    • SABRE was developed as a joint effort between IBM and American Airlines
  • 12. Background (continued…)
    • When created, SABRE ran on two IBM 7090 mainframes. The system was upgraded to IBM S/360 in 1972
    • In the 1970s and 80s multiple CRSs came up in North America
    • The first non-North American CRS was developed jointly by Air France, Lufthansa, Iberia and SAS in 1987. It was named Amadeus
  • 13. Overview of Computerized Reservation Systems
  • 14. Functions provided by a CRS
    • A CRS typically provides the following functions
      • Flight schedule information : Days and times for flights operated by the airline
      • Availability information : Seat availability on a flight by service class, i.e. Economy, Business or First class
      • Fare quotes : A consolidated fare for an itinerary based on flight, day, time, service class and passenger types chosen
      • Reservation information : Seat bookings
      • Ticketing information : Generating and storing tickets
      • Refunds and cancellations : Cancellation of existing reservations and tickets
  • 15. An availability display screen
  • 16. A fare display screen
  • 17. Overview of Global Distribution Systems
  • 18. History behind Global Distribution Systems
    • Although the CRSs simplified the task of maintaining airline data, they brought in new problems
      • In order to handle increasing passenger traffic, large computer systems were required for CRSs. This created a cost burden for airlines, especially the smaller ones which did not have enough money to spend on expensive mainframe technology
      • CRSs were airline specific. This required travel agencies who wanted to sell tickets for multiple airlines to have individual connections to each airline separately
      • Availability and fare searches across airlines was not possible since each airline had its own CRS. Since most passengers were interested in purchasing the cheapest fare rather than a specific airline, travel agents had to spend inordinate amount of time to determine cheapest fares across airlines
  • 19. The birth of Global Distribution Systems
    • CRSs recognized the need to host data for more than one airline in order to bring efficiencies to a growing airline industry
    • Thus, CRSs transformed from being single airline reservation systems to multi airline distribution systems (GDSs)
    • These GDSs also decided to share data among each other to bring in additional efficiencies
  • 20. Life of a travel agent before GDSs
  • 21. Problems before advent of GDSs
    • Travel agents required individual connections to airlines
    • If two or more airlines used different mainframe systems, travel agents had to use and be trained on different mainframe clients
    • Inability to perform direct searches across airline systems
    • Combining airline inventories a tedious process because inventory searches and reservations had to be performed in individual airline CRSs separately
  • 22. Life of a travel agent after GDSs
  • 23. Advantages of a GDS
    • Simplified access to possibly all airlines, through a single interface
    • Ability to connect to multiple airlines either through legacy mainframe clients or modern PC based clients
    • Less maintenance and up-keep overhead
    • Ability to combine airline inventories
  • 24. How GDSs have evolved
    • Due to airline CRSs being based on mainframes, GDSs have been based on mainframes as well
    • Over the last few decades, GDSs have started providing direct connectivity from non-mainframe clients such as PCs
    • GDSs have also started leasing hosting space (hardware, software and connectivity) to airlines which do not want to create and host their own CRSs
    • The advent of Internet has seen GDSs offer innovative products suited for accessing airline information over the Internet
  • 25. How GDSs have evolved (continued…)
    • GDSs now provide access to non-air products as well:
      • Car rentals
      • Hotel booking
      • Packaged holidays
      • Cruises and ships
      • Railways
      • Local road transport: bus, tram, taxi
  • 26. Major GDSs in operation today
    • Amadeus
      • Founded in 1987 by Air France, Iberia, Lufthansa and SAS
      • Head-quartered in Madrid, Spain
      • Largest booking share in Europe
      • Third largest booking share across the globe
      • Used by www.ebookers.com , www.expedia.co.uk and www.opodo.com
    • Galileo
      • Founded in 1993 by 11 major North American and European airlines
      • Head-quartered in Atlanta, Georgia, USA
      • Second largest booking share across the globe
      • Used by www.cheaptickets.com , www.ebookers.com
  • 27. Major GDSs in operation today (continued…)
    • SABRE
      • Founded in 1964 by American Airlines and IBM
      • Head-quartered in Southlake, Texas, USA
      • Largest booking share across the world
      • Used by www.expedia.com , www.travelocity.com
    • Worldspan
      • Founded in 1990 by Delta Airlines, Northwest Airlines and Transworld Airlines
      • Merged with Galileo in 2006
      • Used by www.orbitz.com , www.hotwire.com , www.priceline.com
  • 28. Recap and summary
  • 29. Summary
    • Airlines need to store multiple types of information such as routes, schedule, fares and reservations
    • Travel agents need access to multiple pieces of information before making a reservation
    • Before 1950 airline information was stored, distributed and accessed through non-electronic media
  • 30. Summary (continued…)
    • First computerized airline reservation system (airline CRS), SABRE created in 1964 as a collaboration between IBM and American Airlines
    • CRSs evolved into GDSs over a period of time
    • 4 major GDSs operational today – SABRE, Worldspan, Galileo and Amadeus
  • 31. Questions?