Iata New Distribution Capability Partners Amadeus and Flight Centre say they are ready to “industrialise” the new air fare standard.
The high street retailer, which as FCM Travel Solutions is one the UK’s biggest travel management companies, says it is on track to exploit NDC to improve its services.
Although concerns remain about how NDC will be used by airlines to drive direct bookers and undermine the traditional GDS full content distribution.
But Marcus Eklund, global managing director at FCM Travel Solutions, which is a lead agency partner in Amadeus’s NDC-X programme, said he sees “great opportunities”.
Flight Centre has a particular focus on long-haul corporate and multi-destination leisure travel rather than short-haul point-to-point.
As a result it says the airlines it deals with are not interested in taking its customer off the business travel agent to serve them direct.
“Many people have asked questions about whether we are afraid or if it’s a threat,” said Eklund. “The airlines we speak to do not want out customers as direct clients.
“It’s very high maintenance and there are a lot of service requirements for them and the airlines are not really equipped for that.”
Eklund said FCM airline partners also see value in its integration of expense management and corporate travel programmes, as well as with the leisure travel side of its business.
And he said it was important to work with Amadeus which has the capability to do the “heavy lifting” in creating an industry solution.
Now Flight Centre sees the industry as being at a cross roads at NDC finally looks like coming to market.
“We joined forces with Amadeus because we shared the same vision. And also because of timings,” Eklund said.
“We discussed with airlines their willingness to do NDC but they were not ready. That changed this year.
“We have had discussions with airlines and technology players about how we can better serve these new channels and we are not quite there yet.
“But we are on a very good journey at the moment to provide both travellers and corporations more value, more personalisation through NDC.
Gianni Pisanello, vice president, NDC-X program, Amadeus IT Group, said any airline that sees NDC as a way of taking more money out of the system was being “very short-sighted”.
“Airlines have come round to the realisation that there is a reality out there and that they need the travel agency community and need systems providers to make this a reality.
“We are happy to make the investment if the economics follow. We do not talk about the GDS anymore in Amadeus, it’s the travel platform.
“It’s about getting all the right content to players like FCM. The exciting stuff we can do it to combine all that together.”
NDC has gone though numerous iterations since it was first announced in 2012 and is now on version 17.2, which is considered the first on which future systems can be based.
Amadeus estimates that the market will start to see true roll out of NDC in mid 2019, particularly in the Europe and the US, with the caveat being are the airlines ready.
Pisanello said: “I would say it is the right time to talk about industrialisation of NDC. We are going to focus on the aggregator and distribution side to make it a reality.
“From Amadeus’s point of view this is one of our key priorities, it’s a very senior level programme, a level up in terms of how programmes are usually managed.
“We have to create the foundation, but we are very interested in what we are going to build on top of it.”
Pisanello likened the introduction of NDC to the creation of the web at which point no one envisaged that it would spawn Facebook or Google.
“New things are going to be possible that will be built on top of this new infrastructure. It’s going to provide more infrastructure and endless innovation for airlines and agencies.”
For Flight Centre NDC has triggered a debate and a new mindset in the industry from which new opportunities are emerging.
“Airlines have a lot of good ideas but they are not good at putting them in to production.
“When airlines have new services we will be able to consume them and offer them to our customers. It will also allow us to scale and be much more agile than we are today.
“This is very important for us as we care about the travellers. It’s very important their voice is heard in this brave new world.”