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Four giant airline computer systems in the United States handle nearly all the airline reservations in the country. (They're known as CRSs, for computer reservations systems, or more often now GDS for global distribution systems.) Although each airline has a ``home'' CRS, the systems are all interlinked so that you can, with few exceptions, buy tickets for any airline from any CRS. The dominant systems in the U.S. are Sabre (home to American and US Airways), Galileo (home to United), Worldspan (home to Delta, Northwest), and Amadeus (many European lines.) The company that owned Galileo and Orbitz recently bought Worldspan, so the two GDS will presumably be merged. Many of the low-price start-up airlines don't participate in any of these systems but have their own Web sites where you can check flights and buy tickets. Southwest, the largest and oldest of the low-price airlines, doesn't participate, either. Southwest's web site gets car and hotel info from Galileo, but the info seems not to flow the other way. Orbitz one of the big three online travel agencies, runs its own system which is "direct connect" linked directly to many of the airlines.
NAV CANADA also publishes the Canadian Airport Charts (airport diagrams) airport diagrams publication. The information in the Canadian Airport Charts provides pictorial displays of Canadian airport manoeuvring areas found in the Canada Air Pilot or the military GPH 200, and may be reproduced for the sole purpose of assisting pilots during aircraft ground movement operations. Up-to-date information on flight planning procedures and airport services, including fuel, lighting and local prohibitions or procedures is found in the Canada Flight Supplement.
The confusion is even worse if you want to fly internationally. Official fares to most countries are set via a treaty organization called the IATA, so most computer systems list only IATA fares for international flights. It's easy to find entirely legal ``consolidator'' tickets sold for considerably less than the official price, however, so an online or offline agent is extremely useful for getting the best price. The airlines also can have some impressive online offers on their web sites.
Other changes include: some airports have stopped curb-side baggage check, anything vaguely resembling a knife or lighter may or may not be confiscated (although lighters suddenly stopped being dangerous a year ago), you're sometimes only allowed one carry-on plus a purse, briefcase, diaper bag or the like, non-passengers aren't allowed past security, all passengers must have a document that looks like a boarding pass at most airports to get past security, you may have to put your toothpaste and shampoo in a baggie that may have to be a one quart size, some parking areas close to terminals are closed. But check-in clerks no longer ask you whether you packed your own suitcase.