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Industry Expert & Airline Business Strategist
I recently participated at the Airline Executive Summitin Istanbul, Amadeus’ annual event bringing its customers from around the world together under one roof. The topics that were covered were as varied as the number of airlines attending the event and, as an industry veteran, I was invited to provide my view on NDC.
Under the banner of “Partner for retail success”, I couldn’t help but think how fitting and paradoxical this edition’s slogan was considering NDC’s evolution. My advisory work with airlines and technology businesses gives me exposure to a broad range of projects and when discussing NDC I am often asked: “why is NDC taking so long?”
The truth is that NDC had a less than optimal start. Why? In the early days, it lacked partnership. Collaboration was missing and this provoked initial resistance between the different industry stakeholders. But as of 2014, things started to change. We began to see the different parties open up and wanted to understand each other’s needs, along with how to work together to meet them. The seeds of collaboration began to sprout.
That doesn’t mean to say that there isn’t room for improvement, but at least the foundations were set for NDC to help drive retail success. Collaboration and partnership are key for NDC to move to the next step.
Another reason why NDC is perhaps taking longer to deploy than some would like is that the XML messaging standard is still evolving. Progress is being made but there are still two iterations a year, which means that airlines are using different versions to try out different functionalities. Often, even the flow is implemented in different ways. This means that third parties find themselves having to develop bespoke integrations for NDC content to be consumed and compared, which is resource-heavy. This is not unusual when dealing with new, industry-wide protocols. Eventually though, we need to “standardize the standard” and when that happens we will have laid another brick towards mass deployment.
But the flip side of deployment is adoption. And there are many facets to this, not least, value generation. How will NDC add new value to travelers? How will it enable travel agents to better serve their customers? What will upgrading an industry standard bring to the industry – and the consumer? Will it enable the creation of new travel offers such as dynamically bundled products, for example? Or will it just be about personalizing existing services?
Personally, I believe that NDC has the potential to deliver new value for travelers, across the different touchpoints of the travel journey. A big part of this will come down to data and, once again, collaboration. Even today, after 50 years of involvement with the industry in different capacities, it is still apparent to me how important it is for our industry to break down the silos, that exist both within companies and in the ways we work together. Innovation and customer-centricity need to come from across the board. “Partner for retail success” means data sharing across partners so we can generate a holistic view of the traveler to create step-change offers that add new value to travel experiences. Some of the silos that continue to exist internally and externally can now be removed with the use of Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, and data analytics to transform our overall view of the customer.
I’m glad to finally see real effort being put into servicing too. NDC isn’t just about selling, it must go beyond that to fulfill its full value potential – whether that’s because travel plans change, there’s a disruption, or simply to offer new services at different points of the journey. This is critical in a personalization scenario as personalized offers not only need to be delivered and monitored, but also serviced coherently. And this is more challenging than when dealing with a generic offer…
Undeniably, we’re seeing the industry come together and deal with NDC’s initial challenges. I am proud of the progress the industry has made. There’s still some distance to go before reaching cruising altitude but we’re all checked in and taxiing onto the runway.