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Travelport’s NDC breakthrough: what next for agents?

Now it’s become the first GDS to manage a live flight booking using NDC, Travelport has some further advice for travel agents.

Among the global distribution system (GDS) companies, Travelport has been at the cutting edge of the International Air Transport Association’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) technical standard.

Last month it became the first GDS operator to manage the live booking of flights using NDC, assisting a travel agent through the process. So what’s next for agents?

Travelport says it is currently working with several carriers, such as the unnamed “major European airline” that supported the first transaction in October 2018 as well as Qantas, whose NDC content will be made available in the coming months.

The recently launched first version of the capability will be rolled out to a growing number of “test agencies” over the next few weeks through the Travelport Smartpoint solution while the company works with these agencies to ensure the system is working as intended, the company’s global head of new distribution, Ian Heywood, explains.

Rollout to further agencies will be subject to the conclusion of a longer-term agreement with the launch airline. Heywood says that more detailed information will be forthcoming as Travelport makes the new capability generally available.

For the time being, to prepare for an NDC world Heywood suggests that agents talk to their partners in the industry, to airlines about their plans for NDC distribution, and to GDS companies about their solutions to deliver airline NDC content.

“They also need to work out how NDC can genuinely benefit their customers and the additional value that they can bring to airlines once NDC is widely being used. All this information will help agents form an NDC strategy that works for their business,” he advises.

On the matter of whether NDC products will have the same functionality as the travel tech company’s existing non-NDC products, Heywood explains: “Travelport is working on further enhancements to its Smartpoint product, which will allow the agent to not only shop, price and book but to fully service the booking much as they can do today for a booking containing traditional content.”

“That said, NDC is fundamentally a ‘shopping’-led workflow, so there are inherent differences in the NDC workflow to the traditional ‘availability’-led ATPCO workflow most agencies use via our desktop solution, Smartpoint.

“The enhancements we will make will be worked through in conjunction with airlines’ own NDC implementations throughout 2019.

“They will be implemented into Smartpoint and Trip Services products for consumption by both our offline travel management and agency customers and our online internet customers.” 

Heywood concludes: “Our desktop solution will provide access to NDC alongside traditional GDS content within Smartpoint. Throughout the course of 2019 we will be continuously enhancing Smartpoint to provide greater integration of NDC with traditional content through, for example, fully-aggregated ATPCO/NDC search.”

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