An offer is only as good as the experience you deliver. Imagine purchasing a recommended product on Amazon, expecting to receive it in two days, only to find out the package was lost in the mail. What if you purchased a premium-seat for your honeymoon but ended up in the back of the plane when a weather delay reaccommodated you to a new flight? In both cases, the offerings were tailored, but the delivery fell short.

The promise of IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) means airlines can create smart offers and distribute rich content across all channels. But they can’t stop there. It’s critical to ensure service delivery, even when unpredictable changes occur.

The good news is a service disruption or order change doesn’t have to lead to lower customer satisfaction. In fact, the Service Recovery Paradox shows that customers who have experienced a problem with service delivery, that was acknowledged, addressed and recovered by the airline, think more highly of the airline after the disruption. Even higher than if no disruption had occurred.

As we move to the world of NDC, airlines must get recovery and order changes right to ensure seamless servicing.

Integrated Order Management

A key tenet of Sabre’s Beyond NDC strategy is integrated order management, which ensures seamless fulfillment. The airline order-management system is responsible for maintaining the integrity of the offer and order through the customer journey. Order management starts with order creation, which must match the exact contents of the offer, and creates an associated legacy PNR to support traditional, existing workflows. Order changes must be synchronized between the seller and the airline, as well as the order-management system.

Kathy Morgan, vice president of NDC at Sabre confirmed, “Any retailing strategy must take the retailing aspect and integrate that across distribution and fulfillment. Airline operations system integration is critical. This is the only way you know the promise of the offer is delivered to the traveler.”

The Types of Order Changes

Order changes take two forms – voluntary and involuntary. Voluntary changes are initiated by the traveler when there is a change in travel plans. This could be as simple as correcting information on the order if there is a typo in the name or more involved when there is a fare or flight impact such as changing the travel destination.

Involuntary changes are initiated by the airline and may happen within or outside the operational window. Reasons for involuntary changes could be weather delays or maintenance issues on an aircraft. However, not all involuntary changes are irregular operations. Some can happen in the planning window. For example, the airline might decide to switch an aircraft type on a route, impacting the number of extra leg-room seats that are onboard, which might now be oversold.

Order Servicing in an NDC World

In the case of a voluntary change, technology partners must provide an NDC solution that enables third-party sellers to reach out to the airline, on behalf of the customer, and request an order reshop. If a customer booked a flight through an online travel agency (OTA) and wants to change the dates of his flight, he would call the OTA with the request. The OTA would then work with the airline’s IT provider to make the change. This is critical to ensure NDC will scale.

Airlines send an order change notification to sellers in the case of an involuntary change. This initial message includes minimal information and is only a notification that a change exists. The seller is then required to come back to the airline to get details about the change – and this is intentional. By pulling the order from the airline or the airline’s IT provider, the seller can ensure it has the latest information.

The traveler doesn’t need to know what’s going on behind the scenes of an order change. It’s our job at Sabre to manage that complexity. Ultimately, the traveler only needs to understand how his interests are being considered and to have changes proactively communicated to him.

End-to-End Intelligent Retailing

At Sabre, we are uniquely positioned to support order changes across a traveler’s entire journey. Our order-management system integrates with delivery and accounting in our core passenger service system (PSS). If voluntary or involuntary changes take place, check-in is still seamless, and accountable documents are accurately routed to revenue accounting.

We’re also infusing intelligence and self-service into the order-change process. Self-service reaccommodation capabilities empower customers to make changes to their flights directly on an airline’s storefront. Interoperability with the order-management system ensures that once the traveler makes a change to the order, a trigger notification is sent to the third-party seller. When irregular operations occur, our solutions enable airlines to automate the process of rebooking passengers affected by disruptions while minimizing the overall cost impact to the airline.

By providing a true end-to-end solution for intelligent retailing beyond the NDC standard, we help reduce integration complexity across multiple providers and ensure order integrity, recovery and customer satisfaction throughout an order change.