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NDC


that will mean the leaders have created a new landscape for others to follow.” Tilstone says the only real benefit to buyers so far of booking non-changeable fares through NDC channels has been to avoid the kind of GDS surcharges levied by airlines, such as Lufthansa and British Airways. “It’s important to remember that what we are seeing here is a strategy to drive adoption of NDC content,” he adds. “The next stage will be to introduce fares and bundles which start to bring extra value to corporate travel.”


‘SUBSTANTIAL GROWTH’ Germany’s Lufthansa Group of airlines has been leading the way in terms of pushing bookings down NDC channels – mainly through the implementation of a GDS booking fee back in 2015, a strategy that has been followed by BA and Air France. Lufthansa also appears to be ahead of the pack when it comes to servicing and has secured new Level 4 NDC certification from IATA, which demonstrates the airline can provide the service level necessary to meet the needs of the corporate market. The group says it has seen “continuous growth in NDC bookings” with chief executive Carsten Spohr declaring in March that Lufthansa’s share of direct sales, including NDC channels, had surpassed 50 per cent of total bookings. “UK bookings through our NDC API have


been showing a substantial growth in the last year, multiplying our bookings by several times in 2018,” adds Lufthansa. Ironically, one of the major factors likely


to propel the growth of NDC bookings later this year will be the launch of new NDC developments by the three GDS owners – Amadeus, Travelport and Sabre – which will be acting as aggregators of NDC content. And this comes despite the fact that reducing distribution costs through GDSs was one of the airlines’ main goals when launching NDC. IATA’s Hoyles admits that “the GDSs moving to become aggregators is critical” to the success of NDC. While TMCs and buyers also think this will be a game-changer for the mass adoption of NDC. David Bishop, commercial director at Gray


Dawes, says: “In 12 months, we could be in a significantly different place when the GDSs


buyingbusinesstravel.com


will have products that are more scalable – what we don’t know is how it’s going to work commercially.” Another potential obstacle to pushing through NDC airfares may be slow response times when travellers are searching for flights on corporate booking tools. “NDC is not very useful to the corporate


traveller unless the booking can be serviced, modified post-booking and duty-of-care can be provided,” says Gianni Pisanello, vice- president of Amadeus’s NDC-X programme. “Similarly, if a consumer has to wait 15 or 30 seconds for NDC offers to start appearing on their online booking tool or mobile phone, they will not adopt it easily.” Business travellers may start to notice when they are making an NDC booking, thanks to the “richer” content, according to Robin Smith, Click Travel’s chief product engineer. “We’re not going to go out of our way


to say, this is an NDC or GDS fare,” he explains, “but, in reality, it may become more obvious because the quality of the information far exceeds what you get from a GDS connection. You will be offered really detailed information about all the extras and services. That’s going to become obvious.” With all these factors now starting to coalesce, NDC should be finally cleared for take-off. However, most in the industry are expecting progress to be more evolution rather than revolution. “We may see some initial examples emerge in the next 12 months with tailored bundles relevant to their corporate and traveller needs,” predicts Festive Road’s Tilstone. “Think about the Siemens-Lufthansa deal that was finalised in 2015 under which travellers received priority boarding and lounge access regardless of card status. “It’s this type of relationship – but on steroids – with multiple options available and fulfillable in the shopping and servicing stage of the booking process.” All eyes will be on IATA this summer, with buyers and TMCs hoping to find significant changes have been made under the bonnet; it will be a pivotal moment in the story of NDC.


2019 MAY/JUNE 79


IF A CONSUMER HAS TO WAIT


15 OR 30 SECONDS FOR NDC OFFERS TO APPEAR ON THEIR MOBILE PHONE, THEY WILL NOT ADOPT IT EASILY


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