So, you think NDC is taking a long time?

Stefan Betz

Director Strategy & Commercials, NDC [X], Amadeus

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25 years ago, the travel industry was about to embark on an important change that would propel it towards becoming a more digital industry. Something that was going to become an enabler for many radical improvements of the efficiency in airline travel and change the habits of airline passengers and the industry forever. What was this change? The end of paper tickets.

You may think the transition to e-tickets was a short and easy step. Industry veterans would confirm it wasn’t. The first e-ticket saw the light of day in 1994. IATA established the standards for its global adoption in 1997 but by May 2004, only 19% of global tickets were electronic. Long story short: the full transition to e-tickets took the industry a staggering 21 years.

Today, we’re looking at a much bigger change for the industry – the industrialization of NDC.

The biggest change the industry has seen in a long time

NDC is a much more complex change than simply moving from paper to electronic tickets. And yet it is only one step in an even larger context to take retailing of airline offerings to a whole new level. It involves significant investment and fundamental changes in both processes and infrastructure for all players in the industry. What is more it might require a new mindset and industry players to evolve their roles and value contribution. It is, in a nutshell, the biggest change the industry has seen in a long time.

So, the question is: how can we, as an industry, make sure that we industrialize NDC a lot quicker than the shift to electronic tickets?

  • Adoption: We believe the key to securing widescale adoption of NDC is to make sure that all players benefit from the change, the effort and the investment that they are making. NDC has to work for all players – otherwise, what’s the point of changing?
  • Standardization: But of course, for the industrialization of NDC to happen, true standardization is fundamental. Only then can we unlock the economies of scale and fast time to market that we need.

Not all of these elements are yet in place. Standardization is still not there with multiple versions and multiple interpretations of the standard currently being used. And whilst there are many early adopters pushing to drive the change, not all players are yet convinced of the benefits and the need for something new. The economics of NDC are still being debated.

Yes, we can go much faster than we did with the transition to e-tickets. For NDC to really take off however these key elements need to be in place.

Implementing a change across the industry, even a relatively simple change like the move to e-tickets that had the support of all players, takes investment, effort and time. For NDC, we have a plan, we have the resources and we have the support of an industry that is always willing to move forward.

Besides, after all the work, we will all reap the benefits – including most importantly, the end customer. The duty of industrializing NDC eventually originates from an ever more sophisticated and powerful end customer. If we succeed in taking airline retailing to the next level, this end customer’s willingness to pay, satisfaction and loyalty will be our reward as travel providers and intermediaries.

After all, doesn’t it feel perfectly natural to go to an airport without a paper ticket confirming that we are entitled to fly?

Click here to learn more about what the NDC means for the industry. 


Travel sellers, NDC