Companies across the travel industry are monitoring airline booking volumes to gauge the pace of recovery. To address the low booking environment, some airlines are focusing on cutting costs. However, innovation in times of uncertainty often reveals powerful new sources of growth. IATA New Distribution Capability (NDC) is one of those innovations. A number of leading airlines continue to pursue their NDC programs as planned; a few airlines are even trying to accelerate progress. At Sabre, we continue to prioritize NDC and keep pace with industry demand and our actively engaged partners.
NDC airline IT capabilities
In an NDC-enabled world, airlines assume control of creating offers. By using larger and more varied sets of data to fuel their offer engines, airlines can create more relevant itineraries for travelers and accelerate the delivery of those offers. NDC offers can be differentiated by the inclusion of rich content, such as photos and videos. In addition, NDC offers can include ancillaries, fare families and dynamic pricing, which have the potential to increase commercial and traveler value. Distributing more personalized content–which could include health and safety information—may stimulate demand and improve sales conversion rates. NDC enables airlines to distribute these kinds of intelligent offers consistently across channels, such as their own websites, or through the Sabre GDS marketplace.
To propel our SabreSonic passenger service system (PSS) airline customers along this trajectory, we have introduced a baseline set of capabilities in the form of REST/XML application programming interfaces (APIs). The APIs are based on the 18.1 version of the IATA NDC technical schemas. Using the APIs, SabreSonic customers can connect to third party sellers to provide access to their NDC offers. Today, SabreSonic customers can use these APIs to enable the shopping, pricing, booking and fulfillment of single adult passenger itineraries by using a credit card form of payment. We also support cancellation before fulfillment.
In July 2020, we served as the technology provider to Belavia-Belarusian Airlines in its achievement of IATA NDC Level 3 certification. Belavia was the first SabreSonic airline to use the Sabre NDC airline IT capabilities to achieve NDC certification. Currently, three online travel agencies (OTAs) can connect to Belavia to source its NDC offers.
Activating NDC capabilities is a marathon race in part because the NDC standards remain a work in progress. By participating in multiple IATA Working Groups pertaining to topics of interest to both aggregators and airline IT providers, Sabre helps refine and optimize the NDC standards. Over the past year, our industry engagement has resulted in the co-creation of two change requests (CRs) related to the NDC standards. The first CR introduced the ability to service multi-passenger orders in the context of both voluntary and involuntary change scenarios. This CR was included in NDC schema version 20.1. The second CR remains in process and proposes a way for travel sellers to utilize residual value in pricing calculations.
Industrializing NDC at the speed and scale that airlines and travel sellers have come to expect will require additional functionality. The availability of a robust set of servicing capabilities –spanning cancellations, refunds, voids and exchanges– is an important prerequisite for greater adoption. The turmoil caused by COVID-19 underscored the importance of servicing to maintain traveler confidence, as well as operational efficiency across airlines and agencies.
Additionally, the maturation of the NDC standards will clear the way for innovation related to another IATA initiative, ONE Order. Sabre was a pioneer in this space. In February 2019, SabreSonic became the first PSS to achieve ONE Order Capable status for air flight transactions as an Order Management System (OMS) and delivery provider. The intent of ONE Order is to modernize reservation systems by consolidating passenger information currently held in multiple systems into a single record, or order, that an airline would control. Airlines will gain more insight into trips, which could unlock additional upsell and cross–sell opportunities. Streamlining the booking, ticketing and mid-back office settlement and reporting processes will also deliver operational efficiencies to airlines.
The path to recovery, and future growth, lies in enhancing and scaling the retailing, distribution and fulfillment of intelligent offers. We are committed to delivering end-to-end capabilities that equip companies across the travel value chain to access NDC content seamlessly.