The fine balance between recognising the benefits of NDC and the potential challenges it may create is ever-present, admits the company’s head of NDC.
Ian Heywood, global head of new distribution at travel IT giant Travelport, has presented an update of developments on ‘new distribution capability’ in Europe.
In his role, he is able to “lead conversations” about NDC around the world, he says, along with representatives from airlines, travel agencies and organisations such as IATA.
“What’s interesting is the diverse concerns and opportunities that are top of mind for travel industry leaders in different regions,” he explains, and specifically in Europe the concern is whether competition will enhance the traveller experience.
“It might be fair to assume Europe is leading the way in rolling out NDC. To some extent this is probably true, and at Travelport we started delivering our NDC roadmap through live bookings with major European carriers,” he begins.
Challenge or benefit?
But like the rest of the world, he adds, the fine balance between recognising the benefits of NDC and the potential challenges it may create is ever-present.
“To characterise the NDC landscape across Europe, I’d say the major focus is on competition and collaboration,” Heywood says.
“A lot of the airlines I speak to acknowledge NDC provides an opportunity for increased competition across the distribution landscape, including the potential for more technology providers or aggregators to appear. Harnessed in the right way, they believe this competition could lead to better technology for distribution, which could ultimately benefit the whole sector.”
In the same way, he elaborates, the dynamic pricing facilitated by NDC will enable airlines to distribute additional fare price points, providing better opportunities to compete with LCCs on particular routes at busy times.
NDC will enable airlines to distribute the same offers through their direct and indirect channels, allowing them to better serve all their customers and making agents more competitive.
“Airlines’ ability to add ancillary content, such as seat selection and additional bag allowances through NDC will also mean passengers have access to a wider choice of options on which to base their decisions on who they fly with. This competition should benefit passengers and ensure they only pay for the parts of a trip they see value in,” he suggests.
Everyone on board
However, he clarifies that “at Travelport we’ve seen from the beginning of this shift towards new distribution that its implementation is only going to be successful if all parts of the ecosystem are on board.”
“Yes, we’ve got to be realistic. Some of our entrenched ways of working are likely to change. Airlines and travel agents need to work together not just on the technical side of NDC implementation, but on the commercial change it’s driving too.”
It is not going to change that agents serve travellers by delivering value through all parts of their trip, “so it’s important we are realistic about the enormous contribution they will make to the success of NDC.”
In conclusion, Heywood states, one thing is for sure: “Travellers should be the ultimate beneficiaries of these changes. As long as we all work together to serve them and their desire for a seamless, cost-competitive, personalised trip, we believe NDC can – and will – work for everyone.”