Our latest Skift Research report examines the complex, and at times intimidating, world of airline distribution. This network is an essential part of how airlines transport their passengers across the globe.

Airline distribution is a complex web of intermediaries, each evolved to best fit its niche of customers. This broad distribution network includes online travel agencies, metasearch sites, traditional offline travel agencies, and travel management companies.

In addition to customer-facing intermediaries, global distribution systems (GDS) are back-end aggregators of inventory and play a large ‘behind-the-scenes’ role in enabling the inventory of travel agencies (offline and online) and travel management companies.

In this report, we review the long, and at times contentious, relationship that the GDS have had with the airlines they serve.

We also define four key questions through which we can better understand the future of airline distribution: 1) Does the world still need the Global Distribution Systems? 2) What is the new distribution capability and how will it impact air travel? 3) Can airlines really de-commoditize bookings? and 4) Does Silicon Valley have a role to play in airline distribution?

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What you’ll learn from this report:

  • How to untangle the complex and interlocking airline distribution landscape
  • A study of GDS market dynamics, including customer fragmentation, technical integrations, and booking fees
  • An overview of the New Distribution Capability: what it is, why it is needed, and an update on its adoption by the industry
  • Why airline ancillaries are so important to industry toplines and why they have become a sticking point with distributors
  • A view into potential disruption that could come out of Silicon Valley

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This is the latest Skift Research report aimed at analyzing the fault lines of disruption in travel. These reports are intended for the busy travel industry decision-maker. Tap into the opinions and insights of our seasoned network of staffers and contributors. More than 200 hours of desk research, data collection, and/or analysis goes into each report.

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