The travel industry generally, and airlines in particular, are in a world of pain. Volatile fuel pricing, intense competition, security concerns and a focus on the environmental impact of air travel have resulted in airline profitability taking a nosedive. indeed the International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts that global airlines will only see a 2.4 percent net profit this year. While that is better than the year before, it pales in comparison to the double digit margins enjoyed a generation or so ago. At a recent World Aviation Summit held in Belgium, Uwe Klenovsky, the Commercial Director of Thomas Cook Airlines discussed this need to broaden the revenue base for airlines. He detailed the traditionally unfriendly relationship between Global Distribution Service (GDS) companies and airlines. These companies enable automated transactions between third parties and booking agents in order to provide travel-related services to consumers. A GDS can link services, rates and bookings consolidating products and services across all three travel sectors: airline reservations, hotel reservations, car rentals, and activities. Traditionally airlines have been reluctant to engage with GDS, instead they prefer to list the lowest airfares on their own websites – the rationale for this approach is to avoid losing more revenue by way of commissions to GDS partners. Indeed Ryanair, the home of discount airfares, once vowed never to work with GDS vendors, but this year signed a deal that reverses that decision. Ryanair has realized, as have other airlines, that GDS vendors bring a wealth of consumer information that can in fact increase their revenue – since GDS services tend to have a better insight into traveler behavior (destination, duration and booking preferences etc), airlines can target specific offerings to specific customers by partnering with GDS’ – to this end partnerships can actually be accretive in terms of revenue rather than decremental. Get the full story at Forbes