Sabre was in force at the 15th annual Travel Technology Europe (TTE) event in London last month. As expected, NDC was a hot topic. In presentations and panels, Sabre leaders including Eric Hallerberg, managing director of Sabre UK, Ireland and BeNeLux, and Alessandro Ciancimino, vice president Supplier Commerce, EMEA, articulated the Sabre vision for the role of the NDC XML-based data transmission standard in travel retailing.


Alessandro tweeted out this simple truth: The standard itself isn’t exciting; it’s what it enables and how we can innovate around it that’s exciting.


During a fireside chat with Alessandro and Caroline Strachan, Managing Partner, Festive Road, product development director at UK’s leading corporate travel management company, Reed & MacKay, Fahim Khan expressed that NDC will offer game-changing opportunities for travel retailers to provide differentiated service and real value.


Sessions at the show focused on disruptive technology in the travel arena, including marketplace dynamics driving the need for new retailing and distribution capabilities. On the tails of 7.6 percent exponential growth in air traffic worldwide[1] rides new demands: like 78 percent increase in shopping volume[2] and 22 percent increase in ancillary revenue[3]. How consumers purchase has changed radically, too. It used to be that travelers searched on mobile and booked online. Not anymore. Mobile bookings saw a 30 percent increase last year[4].


So airlines around the world are looking for three powerful things. First, they want to drive revenue in obvious ways like selling more ancillary services and higher-yield branded fares. But they also want to adopt emerging retailing capabilities to drive personalized, dynamic offers based on individual traveler profiles, marketplace demand and even competitor pricing information. They seek to create a consistent travel experience across all distribution channels, through the lifecycle of the travel journey. And of course, airlines want to get to market faster with a differentiated product. Thus they are rethinking their strategies and incorporating new technology standards like NDC.


In one interview, the question was raised to Eric, “when will the industry fully embrace NDC?” He was quick to point out that at no time soon will every airline in the world move to an NDC solution. NDC is not something “you do lightly.” He went on to explain that these are significant changes for our partners which can drive significant benefits. And require significant investment. With about a dozen major airlines around the world making such an investment to shift their distribution strategies to NDC-based connections, the momentum has begun. But NDC will be a multi-year industry initiative.


Airlines “will not simply snap their fingers and start distributing,” Eric told tnooz managing editor Linda Fox. They must be first prepared by doing their own development work around the NDC standard.


“We are in deep technical talks with carriers that are at the forefront of this. We are making sure we are doing it right together. We are developing along a common set of standards, so it is easy for them to connect to us using the NDC standard.”


Sabre also recognizes that there are hundreds of other airlines which are not early adopters of NDC. In fact, fewer than 60 currently have an NDC API. Carriers will move to NDC-enabled retailing and distribution over time, each at their own pace. That’s why Sabre will continue to invest in a dual platform to support all distribution models; running these technologies side by side to serve a hybrid world.


To unlock the value of this hybrid world, we are not only focusing on low-fare efficacy but on the sophistication and intelligence of our content aggregation. In a world where content is becoming more and more fragmented, aggregation is more and more invaluable. For NDC to achieve its maximum value for sellers and buyers of travel, it must have an intelligent intermediary. Sabre is one of only two companies on the planet that can deliver this at scale. We are in fact uniquely positioned to lead this due to our ability to aggregate, index, and analyze content from traditional airline shopping, NDC based shopping, and LCC APIs to present into a single, integrated source.


If you missed TTE, the message was that Sabre is going Beyond NDC and our approach to NDC is so much broader than compliance to data standards. We are extending the NDC standard to intelligently optimize product, fulfill personalized offers, and standardize airline products and services distributed across all channels. At the heart of this vision is an offer management platform, powered by data and decision science. The true value isn’t in NDC – it’s in utilizing NDC standards to design intelligent solutions that deliver value to airlines and agencies.

Learn more about Sabre’s strategy and investments beyond NDC to deliver next-generation retailing and distribution solutions.

[1] IATA

[2] Sabre

[3] IdeaWorks Company

[4] eDreams Odigeo