IATA director Eric Leopold expects to see between five and 10 airlines implement NDC standards next year, which will result in “more collaboration in the supply chain”, he told delegates at CAPA’s corporate travel innovation day in Antwerp.

Peter Bost, director of travel management company ATPI, said NDC is the biggest development in the last 30 years and warned some companies “will not survive a change like this,” he said.

“TMCs support their clients who are concerned about data protection and airlines approaching corporate travellers directly,” he added. The NDC standard is “a means of having different elements of the travel industry communicate together” and a great opportunity, said Bost, as long as TMCs are able to protect their clients’ data.

But Sabre director Richard Bradberry said while NDC is part of a larger trend to “service the traveller”, technology firms are already providing the capabilities and standards that NDC seeks to establish. “We cannot wait for NDC,” he said.

Amadeus vice-president Decius Valmorbida said corporate buyers were concerned that NDC could mean more travellers buying ancillaries outside policy and approved channels.

Meanwhile Olivier Benoit, director at BCD Travel’s consulting arm Advito, called on airlines to reduce fuel surcharges. He said the charges can be around 16 per cent of the ticket price, but they have not been reduced when fuel prices have dropped. “Fuel surcharges are on the radar,” he said. “If airlines do not act on this, it may have to be done through regulations.”

Benoit said it was becoming increasingly challenging for buyers to gain incremental savings in airline contracts, with targets down year-on-year from around 4 per cent to 1-2 per cent. Describing a “challenging pricing environment”, he said Advito’s 2015 Outlook predicted a rise in air spend for next year. Delta Airlines manager Frederic Schenk, representing the Skyteam alliance, agreed, saying member airlines were planning capacity around a projection of “modest growth” in 2015.

Another trend, said Advito’s Olivier, is a move towards traveller engagement, “influencing rather than mandating,” driven by growth in ‘Gen Y’ employees. ATPI’s Bost added that more loosely managed travel made data collection a key challenge for smaller companies with young demographics. “A managed programme will look very different when today’s 24-year-olds are taking over companies,” he said.

Sabre’s Bradberry said the trend towards more open booking is driving progress with his firm’s Trutrip tool, which enables companies to bring in booking data from outside channels, and “cleanse and normalise” it, so can be shared and synchronized within the workflow. 

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