Ahead of the NDC curve: Travelport

t7tech-travelport PIC 01By Bruce Piper

Travelport’s Travel  Merchandising Platform (TMP) already incorporates many elements of IATA’s proposed New Distribution Capability (NDC), according to the company’s vice president global distribution and sales Damian Hickey.

While Travelport is very much in favour of standards, the company is moving much faster than dictated by IATA’s current timeline which projects a pilot NDC in place by 2016, Hickey told Travel Bulletin during the recent CAPA (Centre for Aviation Pacific Aviation) conference in Sydney.

“Standards make life easier, but we have to go beyond,” he said.

Hickey said that the development of NDC is a manifestation of the desire from the airline community to have flexibility to merchandise various add-on products via indirect channels. The initial phase of discussions about NDC had created confusion, fear, uncertainty and doubt among the travel community, but that initial scepticism has now declined.

“We share the same vision with NDC, redefining the way that airlines can merchandise,” he said, with Travelport already out there signing up customers to its Rich Content and Branding offering.

The development of the TMP has focused on what’s currently missing from GDSs – what is it that current systems do not do and what is needed moving forward, to make it easier for travel agents to sell airline ancillaries and add-ons.

The platform gives airlines the flexibility to connect with the GDS via an XML API rather than simply referring to fares filed with ATPCO. This also means the system can more easily link to low cost carriers with AirAsia, Tigerair, Ryanair and Easyjet all currently feeding content and ancillaries into the platform.

Travelport head of global supplier strategy, Ian Heywood, said there’s a strong imperative for airlines to distribute ancillaries as widely as possible, with a recent study revealing that more than US$45 billion in the extras are transacted globally each year, offering a significant revenue stream.

Some airlines which have connected to the platform already use a hybrid model – for example Delta Air Lines sells some of its “Economy Comfort” seating via XML while still continuing to file fare data with ATPCO.

“We will do whatever we need to in order to get the content to the client,” Heywood said.

The rich content and branding element of the system enables airlines to market and retail their products more effectively, building on the existing cryptic GDS environment with a graphical display which centralises all product information.

Already 55 airlines have signed up for the system, with the rapid take-up indicating a strong unmet need. When a fare is selected from the GDS screen full details appear along with other fare options and available add-ons.

This enables travel consultants to provide full information to their clients as well as providing significant opportunities for companion sales or up-selling.

Heywood said that airlines are expected to dramatically increase the number of ancillary options they offer. Ongoing development will see a fully dynamic approach to the system which could eventually see airlines able to “revenue manage down to individual seats on individual aircraft,” he said.