Is the NDC juice worth the squeeze?

I recently sat down with industry commentator and CEO of Agentivity, Riaan van Schoor, to discuss the current state of New Distribution Capability (NDC) adoption in the industry. In the 20-minute interview, we covered how NDC development is increasing across the industry, how NDC is a strategic priority for Sabre, the NDC challenges we’re working on, and lots more. Here are some of the highlights from the full discussion above.

NDC activity is increasing in the industry

In recent months, there has been a marked increase in NDC activity across the travel ecosystem. Entering 2023, many airlines are focusing efforts on tech transformation and we’re starting to see the fruits of their labor. As some airlines make bold moves in this space, this helps to keep the conversation going throughout the ecosystem.

NDC is a strategic priority for Sabre

We’re working with airlines, agencies, corporations and other technology providers to bring the benefits of NDC to all players in the industry, including end travelers. We continue to invest materially in NDC development and the broader offer and order-based retailing that it enables.

NDC adoption is accelerating at Sabre. Today, thousands of travel agencies are shopping, booking and servicing NDC content from seven airlines that are currently distributing their NDC content through Sabre. Our robust NDC pipeline includes more than thirty airlines. In 2023, we look forward to launching seven additional leading airlines.

As a leading provider of technology and content aggregation solutions, Sabre carefully considers the responsibility to our global customer base to deliver solutions in a robust and scalable way.

Sabre is tackling NDC challenges

To understand the challenges with NDC implementations, we bring together all players in the industry to understand what they need and explore how Sabre can support a balanced value exchange between travel suppliers, sellers and buyers. We encourage collaboration in multiple ways, including our NDC customer advisory board (CAB), customer feedback sessions, industry conferences and by participating in the IATA working groups that define the NDC standards and technical schemas.

As airlines implement NDC solutions with different schema versions and workflows depending on their business priorities, Sabre is working on normalizing content and capabilities to give sellers and buyers a consistent experience.

The ecosystem is complex and made up of thousands of organizations that will use multi-distribution workflows for years to come. It’s also important to note that today, most agencies use a schedule-led shopping flow which isn’t available with NDC. We’re normalizing workflows through our APIs and online booking tool and advocating alongside our airline partners for the adoption of schedule-led flows in NDC.

Another challenge with the large-scale rollout of NDC solutions is technical performance. Shopping response times for NDC are significantly higher than traditional air shopping, which impacts conversion rates, particularly for OTAs and end travelers. Sabre, in partnership with Google, is working on solutions that enhance intelligence and speed at scale.

Lastly, one of the biggest challenges we face… “Is the NDC juice worth the squeeze?” – how do we make sure the effort and investment in NDC provides value to the ecosystem? We’re working with industry partners to deliver content and capabilities that agencies and travelers expect today. And we’re working on how to delight them with the benefits of NDC: dynamic bundling, personalized offers, improved order management and more.

NDC can unlock valuable content for corporate buyers

When we look at NDC implementations from airlines, corporate buyers want new content. They want easier access to the beyond-fare benefits they negotiate in their corporate programs. NDC is a critical enabler of getting that kind of content and introducing innovative content for all segments, including TMCs serving corporate buyers and travelers.

Sabre is ready for American Airlines NDC

American Airlines is a long-standing member of our NDC customer advisory board. We’re pleased that the results of our close development collaboration – including the completion of a pilot with agencies – are set to come to life. We’re excited to launch a comprehensive set of American Airlines NDC capabilities for Sabre-connected agencies in April 2023.

NDC is a technical standard, not a commercial model

NDC is a technical standard designed to change the underlying technology of how airlines distribute their content. It enables greater retailing and personalization through dynamic pricing, continuous price points and new content and capabilities.

Commercial structures are evolving as business strategies evolve across the ecosystem – this will continue regardless of technology standards. By focusing on value creation and the ecosystem aspect of travel, industry discussions can recognize the value of all players.

Sabre continues to be excited about NDC

At its core, NDC offers flexibility and content symmetry. Airlines can sell products and agencies can access products across channels. This ultimately gives travelers flexibility to choose channels and a consistent experience wherever they shop, book and manage travel.

Sabre’s technology unlocks this flexibility and gives sellers and buyers new content, faster.

Kathy Morgan is Vice President Product, Airline Supply and NDC at Sabre, responsible for sourcing all air content. She’s an industry veteran with deep expertise built over three decades with Sabre.

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