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Global Distribution
We have produced estimates for the breakdown of passengers boarded sold per distribution channel on a global basis for the past 13 years. Subscribers should treat these flown sales as indicative only. T2RL track the number of passengers boarded for each airline every year. We adjust this passenger number to include franchise partners working through a combination of publicly available data and our own sources to develop a perspective on the split between direct and indirect channels. We focus on gathering information about seat sales made via airline's websites, call-centres, other third parties, host direct and GDS.

New: The Online tab shows the development of web bookings since 2008 compared to the change in worldwide passenger traffic. We also compare the latest regional web bookings with 2015 data.

New: Since 2019 certain airlines have started to sign distribution agreements with GDSs enabling the airlines NDC content to be displayed and booked via the airline's GDS channel in some form. T2RL has started tracking these agreements in the NDC tab.

Read more about our methodology and distribution channel definition on the Method page.

Database Currently Tracking 1828 airlines, boarding 4,392,100,986 passengers in 2023

Estimates for 2008-2023

These estimates are made by combining multiple sources of data and applying our knowledge and experience.

We have a well-defined methodology which has improved over time:

T2RL track the number of passengers boarded for each airline every year. We also adjust this passenger number to include franchise partners. We then work through a combination of publicly available data and our own sources to develop a perspective on the split between direct and indirect channels. We focus on gathering information about bookings made via airline's websites, call-centres, direct connect channels, host direct and GDS.

We regularly conduct interviews, both formal and informal, to validate our hypotheses with airline executives and the providers of technology solutions to airlines.

We are also permanently active in the travel industry and IT and distribution market by providing information and consulting to airlines and other travel providers around the World.

We combine these components to develop a perspective on the split by channel and make our estimates.

We have established the following definitions for each channel:

Channel Passengers Included
Web Passengers buying tickets on the site.
Today the vast majority are leisure consumers and unmanaged business travellers.
For the moment this also includes mobile.
Call Centre and ATO/CTO Passenger sales or tickets created by airline employees or airline contracted third-parties working from call-centres, airport ticket offices and city ticket offices.
Tour Operator Passenger sales through a block allocation of inventory to travel agents or tour operators. In particular those made by Vertically Integrated Tour Operators (VITOs).
Global Distribution System

Flown passengers sold via the Global Distribution Systems (GDS). These are currently defined as Amadeus, Sabre (including Abacus from 2015) and Travelport.

GDSs are characterised as having travel agency subscribers and offering the ability to sell multiple airlines in one system.
Host Direct Flown passengers sold via the local Computer Reservation Systems (CRS) providers. These are known as Axess, Infini, Sirena, Topas (until 2013) and Travelsky.

They are typically used in home markets to sell a select few number of home based airlines.

Other Third Parties
(Direct Connect)
Other Third Party includes PBs sold via sales channels with a connection between the seller (usually a travel agent) and the airline that are not transacted via a GDS or CRS. Most passengers sold via this channel use an API connected directly to the airline’s PSS which may be an industry standard such as NDC or a proprietary one from the airline. Older direct connections may even use EDIFACT messaging but most airlines are keen to phase out this technology.

Today this channel is mainly used by LCCs to connect to Online Travel Agencies, but network airlines have also started to use it in their strategy to offer content directly to a range of travel agencies and other third parties such as metasearch engines and corporate booking tools.

For the time being T2RL also accounts for aggregator (non-GDS/CRS) sales within this category as this is still a small proportion of overall sales.

Clearly each airline has its own strategy and approach to distribution. Boundaries between the channels are becoming more and more blurred from a systems perspective.

Outlook for Our Modelling
We constantly strive to improve our estimates and modelling to get the right information to our Subscribers. We have undertaken a number of initiatives to test different techniques and modelling practices and have sponsored academic projects at the London School of Economics. We strive to establish a Worldview of Distribution for the airline industry. We believe that the solution lies in combining information about consumer behaviour, airline offerings (schedule) and existing market shares to present and project changes in the distribution landscape. Our work is currently academic in nature and largely mathematical. We are committed to developing our Worldview for the future to improve understanding of this challenging area.


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