GDS companies aid travel agents hit by downturn

Two global distribution systems (GDS) have announced that they will ease booking requirements for their customers, and one said it won't charge for the installation or removal of its systems in travel agencies hit hard by the recent drop-off in airline bookings.

Both announcements come as a result of the attacks on the U.S. two weeks ago by terrorists who hijacked four commercial hijackers. Airline reservations have declined sharply since Sept. 11.

A GDS is a transaction-based reservation system used by airlines. Major GDS companies, including Galileo International, Amadeus Global Travel Distribution SA and Sabre Holdings Corp., run the reservations systems for airlines directly. They also publish flight information used by travel agents and online travel sites.

Madrid-based Amadeus said yesterday that it would waive some fees associated with bookings and the installation of Amadeus technology through the end of the year.

"Our goal is to provide relevant and comprehensive assistance to travel agents, not only for the near-term challenges that lie ahead, but for the future growth and viability of their businesses after this critical time has passed," said Tony McKinnon, president and CEO of Miami-based Amadeus North America LLC.

The assistance includes waiving fees through December for installing or uninstalling Internet-based platforms such as Amadeus Vista and Amadeus Pro Web; waiving installation and removal fees for travel agencies that move to their own hardware and Internet service providers through December; and offering the browser-based reservations platform, Amadeus Vista, on a month-to-month basis after the first six months for new customers.

A statement released yesterday by Rosemont, Ill.-based Galileo, said it plans to waive some of its customary fees.

"To assist during this unprecedented period of turmoil in the travel industry, Galileo is extending substantial booking-fee credits to its supplier customers," the statement said. "This, in addition to previously announced assistance to travel agency and corporate customers, totals several million dollars of direct support to the industry."

Amadeus said it would likewise waive some of its booking fees.

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