AFTA View: NDC: enabler to success

Travel agents are frustrated by the way they have to access many aspects of airline products that fall outside of their GDS, writes Jayson Westbury, chief executive AFTA.

JaysonWestburyby Jayson Westbury, chief executive AFTA

The recently released research report funded by IATA and undertaken with a coalition of World Travel Agents Association Alliance members including AFTA has presented some interesting perspectives on IATA’s proposed New Distribution Capability (NDC).

Australian travel agents represented 15 per cent of the 1,034 respondents from across the globe to a significant survey asking questions about what they think about NDC, selling airline tickets and ancillary products.

Clearly, travel agents do not feel that they are in the best place from a connectivity point of view when it comes to selling airline ancillary products. This is by no way a fault of the GDS. The GDS offers the content that is provided to them and it is hoped that the new NDC communication standard will enable a simplification of processes such that more content can be provided to travel agents in the future.

The report also identified a lack of awareness by travel agents about NDC. I am not surprised about that whatsoever – the discussion that has been going on across the global industry has been about “IATA resolution 787” – no wonder agents have a low awareness.

There seems to me to be little point in tuning into what is currently a hypothetical discussion. After all, NDC is a standard and not a new system or technology. I think most agents would love to engage in the discussion once there is something material to talk about. IATA has been, on a global stage, very vocal about the NDC, but there has been little direct communication from airlines about their grand plans for NDC use. In Australia there seems to be a few conversations going on that have some NDC tones to them, but nothing game changing.

Most importantly from this report is the fact that there are now some perspectives from travel agents on the subject – including the unsurprising finding that they expect to be paid to sell NDC enabled products. A new standard does not give rise to a compelling reason for why the commercial model should change.

The report looked at several options for how travel agents might be rewarded for selling airline products and the overwhelming result was the desire to be paid commission. The report did explore other options but at this stage there has not been any serious suggestion about alternatives that could be commercialised. Travel agents are the agent of the principal and a new standard which may enable new ways to communicate via the valued technology provided by the GDS does not necessarily give rise to a new commercial model.

I commend the report (NDC: Travel Agencies’ Enabler to Success) to everyone in the industry with an interest in selling airline products.

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