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From concept to results: taking NDC forward

Gianni Pisanello

VP, NDC [X] program

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NDC is one of the hottest topics in the travel industry and a part of the broader digitization trend happening across the sector. Over the last few years, the industry has embraced and started to invest in NDC and thanks to the close collaboration of key stakeholders across the value chain, we’ve made great progress.

From concepts to a pragmatic approach, Amadeus has been heavily involved in NDC, moving the industry beyond discussion to delivery. Our IT NDC solutions have been in production with several airlines for a few years now, generating NDC orders through their partners.  Our early adopters on the Travel Platform are already implementing our NDC-enabled solutions and consuming content via NDC. We’re excited about the big milestones we’ve achieved so far, but the opportunity ahead of us is not just making NDC work, but ensuring it works in a way that moves the industry forward, and, foremost, delivers value to the traveler.

Over the last year, we worked alongside our NDC [X] partners to develop scalable and user-friendly solutions. The goal is for airlines to efficiently distribute their NDC content while ensuring that agencies can meet their customers’ needs by accessing, comparing, consuming and servicing NDC content with minimal disruption to their processes and systems. We’ve come a very long way towards this goal and we’re on track to complete the vision.  

NDC-enabled solutions & early adopters

In my previous post, I revisited key achievements up to May and gave a heads-up on things to come. I’m thrilled to see continued momentum supporting airlines and travel sellers with their evolving digital transformation journey. 

Recently, Cathay Pacific became the latest airline to implement Amadeus Altéa NDC, our end-to-end Offer & Order Management solution that uniquely facilitates a simple, agile and open approach for airlines to create and distribute their NDC offers across channels. With full servicing and interlining capabilities, to name a few, it allows airlines and travel sellers to enjoy enhanced retailing capabilities. 

Cathay Pacific is now the 6th airline to implement Altéa NDC, following Finnair, Corsair, SaudiaAvianca and Singapore Airlines. Furthermore, like Finnair, Cathay Pacific will be able to leverage our multi-channel distribution technology by integrating NDC content seamlessly with the Amadeus Travel Platform using Altéa NDC, connecting it to the world’s largest and most diverse travel seller community.

Only last month, we launched a new and enhanced version of the Amadeus Travel API, our NDC-enabled Web Services solution for the Travel Platform, with optimized shop-order-pay-servicing flows. Early adopters of this solution include major industry players such as AERTiCKET, American Express Global Business Travel, BCD Travel, House of Travel, and integrated tourism group TUI. 

On the back of these exciting developments, American Airlines, American Express Global Business Travel and Amadeus announced a milestone in travel retailing with the processing of live NDC bookings through our Travel API. The partnership aims at exercising the full functionality of end-to-end booking flow and servicing (including upsell, ancillaries, cancellations and exchanges) when capabilities reach scalable production levels. 

Additionally, we announced a continued partnership with United Airlines to industrialize NDC by developing, testing and bringing to market new content offerings, such as United's new Corporate Bundles and Dynamic Bundled Fares. As part of the NDC [X] program, United has provided invaluable inputs on how to jointly master this major industry change process.

Another of our travel agency early adopters and active Amadeus NDC [X] member, CWT, has also expanded collaboration on NDC. CWT is using the Amadeus Travel API to test the processing of NDC content through their internal systems. CWT will deploy the NDC-enabled Amadeus Selling Platform Connect desktop solution to consume NDC content alongside existing travel options. A strategic approach that’ll enhance its corporate customers’ travel experience.

Overcoming ongoing challenges

Though we have taken an important step forward by demonstrating how collaboration is key to creating value and driving NDC forward, there are still industry challenges that need to be addressed. Take content fragmentation as an example. It is a growing concern for agencies. While NDC is one part of the puzzle, we have more content sources today than ever before and going forward we can only expect a world where all these different content sources will need to co-exist alongside each other. At Amadeus, we’re bringing all travel content together in our cloud-based Travel Platform.

Performance and scalability are also areas that need focus. Response times have not reached where they need to be, but it should improve with new solutions such as cloud-based applications. The personalized nature of NDC means more transactions will need to be done quickly, so NDC APIs must support this. 

The journey for standard NDC deployment continues: deploying standard NDC messages (and not bespoke messages), and implementing them in a standard way. The industry has quite some way to go still on this critical item. During our integration efforts, we have witnessed different airlines and their providers using different versions of NDC, implementing NDC flows in different ways and supporting different functionalities. Their understanding of servicing, in terms of scope and implementation, is also different which will need homogenizing for true NDC standardization and industrialization to be achieved. 

Last, but not least, NDC is a technical standard that is business model agnostic, just like any other technical standard. And for any technology standard to work, the economic model behind it needs to work for all stakeholders: for airlines, for agencies and for their service providers. In addition, NDC needs to open innovative and exciting content upon which new partnership dynamics can be forged. We’re not only continuously making progress on the technological front, but also constantly in discussion with our partners to find a way that works for all, so we have the optimal conditions for mass adoption.

Truly scalable and future-proof

We strongly believe that NDC has the potential to deliver new benefits to the entire travel ecosystem. Against this backdrop, one of our most recent milestones is Amadeus’ Level 4 certification as a distributor from IATA, which recognizes the importance that for NDC to succeed, it must address a broad range of travel sellers’ business needs by going beyond the prime booking flow and offering full servicing functionalities. 

Amadeus is fully committed to making NDC truly scalable on a global basis, across all airline and agency types. As part of this, we are fervently working on delivering our @Scale capability on our NDC IT solutions, and we look forward to announcing progress on this area. 

NDC is really at an exciting stage! There is higher awareness and engagement from the airline and travel seller communities and we are seeing serious investments and commitment for adopting the standard. 

The emergence of a new dawn

Despite the challenges, the industry has achieved remarkable progress since NDC was launched in 2011. Since the beginning, we have always said that collaboration across the industry would be key for NDC to really take off. Collaboration with some of the largest and most innovative players across the industry over the past few years has translated into live NDC bookings today, and the beginning of the transformation of how travelers’ shop and buy their journeys. IATA has listened to the community and has become an invaluable vehicle for bringing the industry together.

NDC’s evolutionary pace is largely dependent on true standardization, performance and the right economics. Ultimately, when airlines use NDC to create and distribute exciting offers that generate new value, the industry will see additional revenues and accelerated take-up of NDC across the industry. 

The industry has done well so far and is on the right track – and in terms of our own progress, you can see comments from some of our NDC partners in the videos below, as well as our infographic highlighting our NDC journey to date. But it is not yet the time to decelerate our collective efforts. In fact, it is the time to double down. With this renewed energy and impetus, I am confident the industry will achieve the NDC vision!

For more information about NDC and our NDC [X] program, have a look at our dedicated webpage.

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Tags

Leisure Travel, API, Merchandizing, Travel Platform, Airline IT, Travel sellers, Business Travel, NDC, Altea