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Q&A: NDC driving new opportunities for the travel industry

June 21, 2019
Erika Moore
Erika Moore

Erika Moore, VP & GM, U.S. Sales at Travelport and Jeff Klee, CEO at AmTrav discuss how both companies share the belief that the best way to implement NDC is through an industry inclusive, and collaborative, conversation.

Erika: I am thrilled to hear from you Jeff, about what AmTrav is doing to prepare for wider NDC adoption – and, what you are most excited about with NDC?

Jeff: I am always concerned when there are options and upsells that are available on airline sites but not transactable in our booking tool. That’s bad for the airlines and bad for the travelers. So we’re really excited about NDC and working hard to prepare for it. There’s a lot of foundational work we have been doing to be able to handle ancillaries in a more flexible away so that, no matter what the product is, no matter if it comes in a bundle or a la carte, if its booked with the ticket or after, we can account for it, support it, report on it, and show it on the confirmation.

Erika: Like with any new technology adoption, NDC will require investments to successfully implement the personalized offers capability. Would you agree that NDC will provide agencies with a competitive advantage – or will it simply benefit airlines by selling their products through more channels?

Jeff: Both. But we have to start with the premise that airlines want, in fact need, to be able to sell their products in all channels. Ancillary sales have become a significant part of most carriers’ revenue streams. If third party channels can’t deliver those same levels of ancillary revenue, what is the likelihood of airlines continuing to distribute through third parties? So I look at it as a table stake. If we want to be an intermediary for an airline, it's incumbent on us to sell every product that airline wants us to sell. The good news is that what’s good for the airline in this case is also good for the traveler. If I’m booking a flight, I absolutely want to see all the options. If I can pay $15 more to skip a line, or $40 more for extra leg room, I want to know about it. I may not say yes every time, but I at least want the option. So I think this is a clear win-win. And to the extent that we can offer full content before other TMC’s and booking tools, yes, I think it’s a clear competitive advantage.

Erika: For AmTrav specifically, it sounds like you’re investing in the ability to help travelers fully understand the options they’re choosing to pay for or to leave out of their trip. What else are you looking forward to from this new era of NDC?

Jeff: Yeah, I think adding more choice in our displays and an easier ability to compare is important and has been well-chronicled. What gets less attention, though, are some of the post-ticketing benefits of NDC. First off, with NDC we can give travelers options like same day standby, or upgrade offers at check-in, all within our platform. And it’s great for IROPS. If my flight gets canceled, I want to book through an NDC connection because then my TMC will be able to re-accommodate me quickly and automatically without having to contact the airline, or get a waiver code, etc. I’ll have a better chance of getting one of the last few seats on the next flight out.

Erika: A huge part of the value that corporate travel management companies have is being able to offer traveler customers the ability to book exactly the travel they want, whenever they want it. What has been the biggest challenge for you to deliver the experience your customers want?

Jeff: The biggest challenge has simply been not having this content available from a reliable, easy-to-consume source. GDSs have not had this content – largely because airlines haven’t been able to provide it through legacy pipes. We’ve tried to curate a lot of our own content to supplement what’s in the GDS and we’ve had some success with that, but it’s impossible for us to do that on a global scale and keep it up to date.

Erika: This new era will enable travelers to access a full menu of fare brands and make it easy to combine differentiated trip options at the point of booking. By eliminating the need for agency customers to go back directly to airlines to customize their trips after booking, collectively, agencies and airlines will provide a more convenient and holistic experience for travelers. How can we all improve on ways of working to get there?

Jeff: I know not everyone agrees with me on this, but I think the first thing we have to do is “forget everything we know”. The corporate travel industry has done a decent job over the years of cobbling together a pretty complex set of processes to deal with limitations around how we can consume content and what content is available. But NDC will make a lot of those processes obsolete and we have to be willing to say “Good riddance.” There are a lot of quirks in airline distribution where, if you ask “Why is it done this way?” the only answer is “Because that’s how we’ve always done it.” Rather than starting from where we are now and trying to work backwards to fit in NDC content, we need to start, metaphorically at least, from a blank slate and figure out the best way to serve today’s customers with today’s airline products. That won’t come without pain, but we can’t cling to old workflows that aren’t optimal anymore.

The conversation continues…

Jeff recently joined Travelport, United Airlines and AMEX GBT on a panel at the CAPA Americas event in Denver, to discuss the opportunities NDC will bring us and our customers – as well as challenges and concerns around NDC and the scope for greater personalization. [Watch the full video here]

The importance of this conversation is to eliminate concerns around the economic model and resistance around the protocol with how information is transferred so that the greater message can be communicated: NDC is happening, and needs to be adopted accordingly, by all of us. In today’s world, the travel industry is far behind e-commerce and modern retailers, who are getting better and more strategic at providing their customers with the best possible options and convenient, personalized shopping experiences.

To avoid any further delay in the progress being made, travel industry players must remove their personal concerns and get on-board with NDC adoption right now. Why? Because ultimately, the end traveler will reap the greatest benefits, and it is all of our jobs to deliver on the experiences that our customers demand

Utilizing the travel distribution model, future proofing your distribution channel

CAPA Americas Aviation Summit, 2019