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.
Travel may be local, regional, national (domestic) or international. In some countries, non-local internal travel may require an internal passport, while international travel typically requires a passport and visa. A trip may also be part of a round-trip, which is a particular type of travel whereby a person moves from one location to another and returns.
Wait times are assessed automatically as follows: on departure, the passenger’s boarding pass is scanned when he/she enters the queue, then again just before he/she begins the individual screening process and, on arrival, when the passenger lines up in the visitors or residents queue in the primary inspection area and again when he/she exits from the area behind the customs officers’ posts.
In theory, all the systems show the same data; in practice, however, they get a little out of sync with each other. If you're looking for seats on a sold-out flight, an airline's home system is most likely to have that last, elusive seat. If you're looking for the lowest fare to somewhere, check all four systems because a fare that's marked as sold out on one system often mysteriously reappears on another system. Some airlines have rules about flight segments that are not supposed to be sold together even though they're all available, and at least once I got a cheap US Airways ticket on Expedia, which didn't know about all the US Airways rules even though I couldn't get it on their own site or Travelocity which did know about them. On the other hand, many airlines have available some special deals that are only on their own Web sites and maybe a few of the online agencies. Confused? You should be. We are.
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