NDC (New Distribution Capability) has moved quickly from a topic for futurists and forward thinkers of the travel industry to a reality. While NDC is poised to have far-reaching effects on the industry, those effects vary by industry segment and will take place over a few years. For Corporations, NDC promises better visibility, better traveler satisfaction, and better control over the travel program. Access to competitive fares and personalized options will establish credibility with travelers and enable smarter decisions.
Sabre invited corporate travel manager customers to our annual NDC Customer Advisory Board, where they had an opportunity to collaborate with TMC, supplier, technology partners and their GDS partner. These conversations allowed them to discuss the challenges and opportunities from a corporate buyer perspective, Sabre’s NDC roadmap, and what’s Beyond NDC. But for now, let’s start with the basics.
What is NDC? What is it not?
NDC is a travel industry-supported program launched by IATA for the development and market adoption of a new, XML-based data transmission standard. It will eventually allow airlines to present not only fares, but offers that bundle ancillary products like upgrades, bag fees, Wi-Fi, food/beverage and other services based on traveler preferences, corporate policy and negotiated rates. This standard will make it easier for travelers to compare flights and prices, with increased visibility into ancillary offers, for a more personalized traveler experience. The objective of NDC is to modernize travel distribution technology. NDC content and functionality will be delivered through a phased approach, beginning with basic capabilities, such as shopping, pricing and booking, then growing in functionality and content in the coming years.
How does NDC impact a corporation’s travel program?
NDC has created confusion and anxiety with corporations as some new bundled offers may not be consistent with traditional lowest logical fare travel policies. According to an October 2018 report, The Evolution of Air Distribution from ACTE Global and American Express Global Business Travel, 58 percent of travel managers responded that they are only somewhat confident in their understanding of NDC and what it means for their corporate travel programs. Primary concerns include reduced functionality of their booking tools (90%), lack of availability of data (88%) and a negative impact on policy compliance (87%) and duty of care (77%). Additionally, the perception is that the inclusion of ancillaries in the offer will add additional travel costs that may be considered out-of-program.
Sabre recognizes that it requires a community to benefit a community. The Beyond NDC Partner Program is a commitment from airline and agency partners to enabling NDC for broader industry adoption in collaboration with Sabre. It also demonstrates a commitment from these partners to contribute to Sabre’s NDC development roadmap. We are actively discussing how to ensure continued support of integrated, multi-source content to include branded fares and ancillaries that provide the personalized experience for the end traveler with policy controls for today’s complex corporate travel programs.
According to the ACTE study, 64 percent of corporate travel managers believe NDC will bring an improved traveler experience and 56 percent believe it will help support airline negotiations. Doug DeBaltzo, Global Travel Director for Gallagher Company shared that, “the biggest change I see with NDC is traveler credibility. If you go back 10-15 years to when airlines would look at related booking methods like direct connect and other sources outside the GDS, you were forced to combat leakage when travelers booked outside your system. You lost discounts and package options with your carrier partners, you lost duty of care abilities, and you lost trust from the traveler community, who didn’t believe you were presenting the lowest fares and best options to travelers. If travelers can’t compare apples to apples, they think you aren’t giving them the better fare than they get through direct channels.
By leveraging a rich-content view of travel options and greater transparency across carriers, travel managers can personalize the end-to-end experience along with the ability to efficiently manage air bookings across the entire workflow. Additionally, corporate travel buyers can work with their preferred carriers to include ancillary services that are of value to the business traveler. Rather than negotiating on specific fare classes with specific discounts, business travelers can be offered a bundle of policy-compliant products and ancillaries. Services typically purchased outside of the booking channel are now included within the offer, providing travel managers real-time visibility into costs for better expense tracking. And, crucially, policy requirements can be overlaid at the point-of-sale. “Bundles are going to improve the traveler experience, but the traveler needs clarity on what’s acceptable and what’s not”, explained Peggy Medeiros with Seimens. By giving business travelers access to options like what they would see in consumer channels, they are less likely to use channels outside of the program. “The carrot is that you don’t get what I negotiated unless you book through our system,” added Rita Visser with Oracle.
Why is Sabre’s role important?
Sabre is leading the industry with its Beyond NDC program and is committed to ensuring these changes and our solutions are designed to meet the needs of all participants in the travel ecosystem.
As a technology partner, our strategic relationships and focus on NDC-enabled solutions that go beyond shopping and booking ensure you have access to the systems and tools that help you balance traveler preferences with corporate policy. We will help deliver the “right offer” to a business traveler that fits within the travel policy and includes negotiated rates and offers with preferred carriers. And, we will serve as a trusted advisor to help you navigate NDC and its impact to your travel program.
Peggy Medeiros points out that, “Our relationship with our tech partners is evolving. We’re becoming far more intimately engaged with the entire value chain and we’re working more closely with our TMC, OBT, airline partners, and GDS partners.”
Rita Visser with Oracle adds that “We’re taking conversations to that next level. It’s moving our relationships from a transactional conversation to one that’s looking at innovation, technology, and the future. They are asking me questions now that they hadn’t been asking me before, because they want to know, when we bring this to you, what are you going to do with it? I’m asking them, when you bring it to me, what else can I expect from you?”
The Sabre GDS Marketplace has an important role to consolidate all the various NDC offers into a single, easy-to-understand response. In our NDC eBook NDC to the Power of Sabre, we shared one example highlighting just how many options travelers have today versus just five years ago.
This is the kind of complexity Sabre promises to tame. The Sabre GDS Marketplace will integrate NDC content into corporate booking tools for a simple, comparison-shopping environment.
GetThere, Sabre’s corporate booking tool, will continue to support integrated, multi-source content that includes branded fares and ancillaries while maintaining current corporate workflows, policy management and enforcement. Travelers will be able to book and change flights in a familiar environment with NDC options alongside traditional offers.
“It has been fascinating the see the NDC roadmap. It’s helpful for those of us who aren’t involved in the day-to-day conversations on policy and protocol. NDC is picking up momentum—it’s becoming a reality, not just something that is coming someday.”
–Doug DeBaltzo, Global Travel Director, Gallagher Company.
As NDC standards continue to evolve, so will Sabre’s NDC functionality and content. Throughout 2019, our NDC capabilities will be released in phases, with full integration in our booking tools. To help prepare, travel managers should evaluate their organization’s travel trends and current ancillary purchases. More importantly, they should stay abreast of upcoming NDC developments to understand the impacts to their travel programs; engage with their airline partners on what’s important to them and their travel programs as they develop NDC offers; and understand how their TMC will continue to provide access to preferred content and maintain policy controls.
“As we think about solving issues in this space, it’s really important that the value chain is working together. Buyers feel emphatic about this. Solutions have to be agnostic and work throughout players across the value chain, explains Diane Lundeen Smith with Microsoft.
Sabre is committed to delivering NDC solutions that offer a win-win-win for the entire travel ecosystem through integrated, normalized and scalable end-to-end workflows that deliver value to all. We understand that to be successful, collaboration across the entire value chain is required – and this includes Corporate Travel Buyers. Corporate Travel Buyers from Apple, Gallagher, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Oracle, Siemens, and SQM were recently invited to represent the Corporate voice at a recent Sabre NDC Customer Advisory Board Meeting. To learn more about the key take-aways from our Corporate Travel Buyers, watch this video.