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STX London: ‘NDC will come through the GDS’

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During an exclusive media roundtable at the Sabre Technology Exchange in London, BBT heard that Sabre is confident the GDSs will continue to play a role in the future of distribution by displaying NDC content.

Kathy Morgan, vice president of product management and strategic initiatives, and Rodrigo Celis, vice president of marketing and product management, spoke to journalists about the company’s NDC strategy, which goes beyond the standard set forth by IATA.

Morgan said Sabre believes all the other technology surrounding NDC is what ‘will add value for the marketplace’. She commented that the company is taking a holistic approach to working with the standard, from retailing and distribution to fulfilment.

“It’s important to remember that NDC is not a commercial model,” she said. “While there is a commercial element, it’s not the main focus.”

Talking about IATA’s certification programme, Morgan said that certification is not always an indication of a company’s capabilities. “To get certified at Level 3, an airline just has to prove it can handle a single transaction and management, which can be as simple as changing the name on the ticket. It’s not proof of a tangible product that’s ready for the marketplace.”

However, she said certification gives Sabre an indication of what they’re ready to work on.

Commenting on the pace of progress in NDC, Morgan said the difficulty boils down to three challenges faced by the industry: the maturity (or lack thereof) of NDC standards, the functionality of airline application programming interfaces (APIs) – “corporates are more concerned with scheduling when shopping for flights, but NDC is based on pricing and shopping” – and the concept of a hybrid world, where not many airlines have developed their own APIs to deliver NDC content.

Of the thousands of registered airlines in the world, Morgan said only about 60 of IATA’s 280 members have an NDC API. She also talked about the IATA Leaderboard, a group of about 21 airlines that have agreed to a goal of having 20 per cent of their sales powered by NDC by 2020, saying: “We cannot be focused purely on NDC when the rest of the world isn’t going there just yet.”

Celis then discussed how Sabre is working more as a single unit on its NDC strategy than it did in the past, with the airline teams learning more about the TMC side of the standard.

“We’re looking at ways to standardise the service, no matter if you order an NDC fare online using a self-booking tool or over the phone with an agent,” he said. “We want it to be a seamless process for everyone. Passenger numbers are growing, so automating some standard processes is key.”

He continued: “We think of APIs as a product, so we’re developing simple APIs that can help retailers and customers speed up their processes.”

When asked about the role that GDSs will play in the evolution of NDC, Morgan replied: “The only way this will work is through seamless integration. We want NDC content to be displayed alongside other content from different sources.”

She showed an example of how NDC content will be labelled as such when it is displayed in the GDS so that TMCs can choose where they book.

She concluded: “The marketplace has spoken clearly to say NDC content will come through the GDS. The GDS does so much extra outside of displaying content in terms of duty of care and reporting. If we get this right, it means the end user – ie travellers and buyers – will get better, more customised offers. They shouldn’t have to care about whether they’re booking NDC content or not; they just want to know they’re getting the right content in the way that they want.

“Every airline understands that the GDSs serve booking volume, so I absolutely believe GDSs are still the way forward.”

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