What is NDC
Developed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), NDC is a new standard for online data transmission that facilitates communication and trade in travel. The objective is to have any stakeholder that distributes travel product - such as airfares and airline seats - including airlines, travel management companies, travel agencies and online booking tool providers, all using the same language and processes to sell and book travel.
The reality of NDC
NDC is going to introduce the biggest change to how airfares and other ‘air related products’ are priced, packed and sold.
While there is still much work to be done from the industry’s perspective, the end goal may look a little like this … a customer would request a preferred seat, additional baggage, wi-fi and order catering on their preferred airline and flights via their travel provider who would do this directly in the GDS or other NDC channel. Currently, if a customer wants all the ancillary services, in most cases they either need to ask their travel provider to do this for them or do it themselves – via the airline’s website.
Current limitations for managed travel program
IATA believes that with NDC, airlines will be able to offer customers different types of products and personalised offers faster than what the traditional platforms such as the GDS are capable of. However, with current NDC bookings, more complex travel requests need to be done with airlines directly by phone or using portals, which limits functionality and productivity.
Herein lies the issue, particularly for managed travel programs in the corporate space – without a platform to aggregate travel content like the GDS or viable APIs, the buying and selling of airfares and other air products becomes messy and fragmented for travel providers and their clients. There is much work being done behind the scenes to resolve the limitations of the technology currently available to support NDC content.
(API is the access point or code that allows the feed of travel content from the airline.
What’s the latest on NDC
The Illuminate team spoke with Jason Nooning, Flight Centre Travel Group’s (FCTG) global general manager of air distribution, this week on where things were at with NDC in Asia Pacific and elsewhere around the globe.
Mr Nooning said FCTG’s GDS partner Sabre, had begun offering NDC content for United Airlines and that our corporate customers would have access to this content by fourth quarter 2019.
“Sabre launched new NDC enabled shop and order APIs at the end of March with United Airlines as the launch carrier,” Mr Nooning said.
Mr Nooning explained that ‘go live’ for customers meant they would be able to access NDC air content through their travel manager or select NDC air content in their online booking tool.
What’s happening from a customer perspective globally
FCTG’s corporate travel business in the UK has received the first release of the Amadeus NDC-enabled Selling Platform Connect and is testing it.
Mr Nooning told the Illuminate team the initial testing and deployment would be limited to the FCTG/Amadeus’ corporate travel market in Europe, Middle East and Africa. He said markets in Asia would follow once the solution had been trialled successfully.
“In the UK, we are currently on track to begin an offline pilot with select customers as work commences with other technology providers to make the content available in alternative channels,” he said.
It’s important to understand that NDC only became an official standard in 2012. When launched, it was an airline driven initiative done without consultation from the industry,” Mr Nooning said. “It wasn’t until the latter part of 2015 that IATA began engaging with travel buyers and travel agencies on what would be required to be a deliver a fit-for-purpose solution."
In 2017, the first version of the NDC standard was released, which has been regarded across the industry as the minimum baseline to begin industrialisation.
During the next 24 months, FCTG’s corporate customers will see further developments as the group takes take a pragmatic approach to procuring content while also maintaining the quality of the customer experience.
NDC will be a hot topic at Illuminate this year, with the event featuring a special panel of travel experts to unpack and spell out exactly what NDC will mean for your business and your travellers.