Steve Jones’ Say

AGENTS have grown accustomed to disruptive change. That doesn’t make such change any more palatable, but they are at least accustomed to it, hardened even.

From the advent of online booking platforms which dramatically swept away traditional models, the transition from paper to e-tickets, and the inexorable decline of airline commissions, retailers have been forced to adapt, largely successfully.

So we come to the Qantas Channel, the Qantas Distribution Platform (QDP) and, more widely, IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC), a trio of developments that will radically alter the distribution of the airline’s product.

The foundation of this most recent upheaval is the NDC, an industry “standard” that was ratified by IATA seven years ago. At its core is the ability for third parties, including retail agents, to access far richer content through sophisticated technology connecting airlines and agents.

Qantas’s version of the NDC is the Qantas Distribution Platform, with the Qantas Channel essentially an agreement between the carrier and agent.

So far, so good, despite the obvious complexities and associated head scratching that come with such technological advancements.

But make no mistake. Despite the apparent widespread buy-in from “key industry partners”, agents are anxious and bewildered.

During the course of writing a piece for this month’s travelBulletin, and having spoken to several corporate agents, it became clear that far from lauding and embracing this new era of distribution of Qantas inventory, many are in a state of confusion and uncertainty.

For starters, what choice do agents have other than to sign up to the Qantas Channel? With the carrier charging agents a hefty $17.50 if they book outside the channel, to remain on the outer would border on financial recklessness.

Central to the unrest is an expectation — verbally articulated but seemingly not official as yet — that agents will no longer receive GDS segment rebates on Qantas bookings once the Qantas Channel is switched on. That would be a significant blow. One group of agents estimated it will lose many millions in revenue, an amount it will have to claw back from somewhere.

Exacerbating the issue is that information appears to be in short supply. Qantas has told agents to speak to their GDS provider about the rebates, while the GDSs have apparently instructed agents to seek better commercial terms from Qantas. It has left agents frustrated and unsure of the commercial realities of the Qantas Channel.

Furthermore, agents are in the dark over the timeframe of this rich content which is to emerge from the QDP.

It’s clear that more robust information and greater clarity would not have gone amiss. Surely agents deserve some straight talking from the airline and their GDS providers.

 

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