In the Trenches: To Train or Not To Train?

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to fill a need in our company, and I’m having trouble finding the perfect solution. The problem is that we need someone with a specific piece of knowledge, and it’s not something that’s quick and easy to train someone how to do.

When we book flights, we do it through one of the so-called Global Distribution Systems. These first popped up decades ago, and they really haven’t evolved much since then, when it comes to user interface. It’s a text-based, command-driven system that we use, and it’s very difficult to learn all the ins and outs from scratch. I started teaching our intern how to use the system this week, and you could just see his eyes bulging, preparing to pop out of his head. And we were just working on building one simple reservation.

I first learned the system when I was a travel agent back in my middle/high school days. (Yes, I’m a dork, I know.) Once you know it, it’s amazing how fast you can do things. But the learning curve is steep, and eventually these text-based systems will be put out to pasture. It doesn’t make sense for us to invest in a major training course for many different reasons. Not only would it be costly, but I’ve found that the best training is on the job, not in the classroom. I just don’t have the time or patience for that.

That means that we need to look for people who already have experience. There are plenty of reservations and gate agents from days gone by who would probably be interested in dusting off their mad computer skills, but it’s not always easy to find those people. I imagine it would be easiest in places with recently-shuttered reservations offices or downsized airport operations, but here in Southern California, we don’t really have those. The reservations offices here were shuttered years ago thanks to the high cost of living.

Why not just look elsewhere outside of SoCal? Sure, this work could be done remotely, but I’m not a fan of that for this particular purpose. This is a person that will be able to book reservations, charge credit cards, change existing tickets, and so on. For security and privacy reasons, I’d rather have someone local. It makes it easier to build a good relationship and control what happens to the data.

So it becomes a search for a needle in a haystack. That’s never easy.

About Brett Snyder

Brett is the Founder and President of Cranky Concierge air travel assistance. He also writes the consumer air travel blog, The Cranky Flier.
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John Michel
John Michel

In addition to finding someone with experience in the position you're looking to fill, it's helpful to find a hire who not only has a natural aptitude for the position, but whose behavioral profile fits what the position requires. Hires who fit naturally into their positions are much more likely to be quick learners.

Brett Snyder
Brett Snyder

The GDSs are simple to use for those who know them, but in terms of training and building up knowledge, it's a very steep learning curve.


The GDSs may be text-based and a bit clunky, but they really aren't that hard to use. I'd say that anyone with basic computer skills could probably figure it out in a few days.


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