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How Will NDC Impact the Travel Buying Industry?

Increasingly corporate travel buyers continue hearing about NDC, or New Distribution Capability.

NDC allows airlines and travel agents to make the booking process easier and offer clients more options. It is a set of XML standards that was developed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the trade association for the world’s airlines. At a time when there are so many mobile travel booking apps and disruptors such as Uber that are making people used to ordering transportation within minutes, airlines and travel agents feel the need to adopt technology that will give travelers more immediate satisfaction.

NDC’s development started in 2012, and since then many have wondered how it will all turn out and how it will impact the travel buying industry.

It seems that something new with NDC is happening almost every week. And now here’s another development: By the end of next year, the NDC term will disappear. In its place: orders and offers, according to BuyingBusinessTravel.com.

Speaking to delegates at a recent conference in the Netherlands last Tuesday, Aleks Popovich, senior vice president of financial and distribution services at the IATA, said by then its 20 “leadership” airlines will have adopted the system. Each carrier will be using the new platform for at least 20 percent of its volume.

United Airlines, American Airlines and JetBlue Airways are part of the leadership initiative. Large European airlines such as Lufthansa Group, British Airways, Air France, and KLM have also committed to it.

At an executive roundtable at the Sabre Technology Exchange in Las Vegas last week, Sabre President Sean Menke said trying to predict what NDC will look like in 2025 would be “a wild guess,” according to PhocusWire.

He said he believes many airlines will be using it by then but it may not be the NDC-platform available today.

Momentum for the new platform is definitely growing. Sabre in April released its first set of NDC API’s with United Airlines. Sabre said the NDC-enabled shopping, booking and fulfillment capability would be used for flights across the carrier’s global network.

The company has other partners in its Beyond NDC program, but United was the first major airline to launch with it. United will now be able to offer new fare options and more flight amenities and an improved shopping experience. The system would also allow for bundling offerings, Sabre said.

“We strive to provide the best experience for our customers at each step of their travel journey, including when they shop for flights,” said Dave Bartels, vice president of revenue management for United Airlines. “Working with Sabre to improve the booking process is another way we are able to enhance the experience for our customers.”

Sabre said it is working with all its Beyond NDC airlines partners to integrate NDC content this year. Throughout the year, it will be introducing additional capabilities such as integrating NDC into the company’s agent desktop workspace, Sabre Red 360.

Just this month, TripActions, a travel management company, launched its NDC-enabled platform, also with United Airlines. The company said it would add other carriers in upcoming months.

The company said its clients will be able to have more visibility into United’s fares, bundles and ancillary products such as premium seating, checked baggage, and club access. TripActions will be able to customize the United content based on individual preferences and booking history. Travel managers will also be able to track and control spending more easily.

“TripActions is dedicated to working with a variety of channels to maximize choice and provide the best experience in business travel,” said Daniel Finkel, vice president of booking experience and supplier strategy at TripActions. “Our announcement with United Airlines delivers on our mission to power the in-person connections that move people, ideas, and businesses forward while demonstrating our commitment to collaborate with our airline partners to reflect the ongoing, massive investments they’ve made in their offerings, from new seat products to branded fares to entirely new cabin classes, such as premium economy.”