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BTA Report: NDC ‘Failing to Deliver on Expectations’

Business Travel Association members report they are “frustrated” with a “lack of progress” from airlines with New Distribution Capability initiatives, according to a five-year report on NDC released by the U.K.-based association.

The association, which includes travel management company membership accounting for more than 90 percent of U.K. managed business travel spending, said that TMCs and business travelers have been “consistently penalized” by NDC, such as with surcharges on NDC content booked through global distribution systems, “with promises unfulfilled by airlines” even with “heavy financial and technological investment from TMCs.” The report also bemoaned slow adoption from airlines, with only about half of airlines currently certified to any standard of NDC.

In addition, the report cited a lack of “significant functionality” such as “personalization, unused tickets, group bookings, interlining, split [passenger name records] and mixing NDC PNR with other air content.” Online booking tools  also remain unprepared to offer full NDC capabilities, according to the report.

“We are fully supportive of the transition to NDC, as modernizing airline retail is essential for the entire business travel community, but this fractured and disjointed approach is failing to deliver on expectations,” BTA CEO Clive Wratten said in a statement. “Airlines must employ a collective customer-centric approach that streamlines with TMCs’ activities to sustainably grow the business travel sector and enable tangible change.”

The report further claimed that airlines and content aggregators have been the major beneficiaries with lower distribution cost while agents have seen “very little” benefit and the travelers has seen little “aside from lower fares.” The fares benefit also is up for debate, as TripBam founder and CEO Steve Reynolds, who recently launched an airfare-reshopping solution, said initial use has not shown that tapping the NDC aggregators brings savings.

“We’re not seeing that significant difference between that content,” Reynolds told BTN during the recent GBTA convention in Orlando. “I had thought I’d see lower fares through NDC right out of the gate, but we’re not seeing it yet.”

Still, there are those that remain optimistic about NDC benefits and adoption. Amadeus earlier this year issued a report calling 2021 “the year of scaling” for NDC as airlines develop bundles and TMCs go live with NDC content. American Airlines this week announced it was on track for a “full integration” with Amadeus for NDC at North American points of sale in early 2022, following completion of integration for European points of sale earlier this year. Capabilities will include access to a new “Corporate Experience” offer that gives access to preferred seats and priority check-in, security lines and boarding.

“This market launch will be a significant milestone for our industry and creates opportunities for more personalized offers and a more intuitive booking experience,” American Airlines managing director of digital and distribution Neil Geurin said in a statement.

The BTA report in fact praised U.S. carriers along with Qatar Airways and Etihad for taking a “customer-centric approach alongside working collaboratively with the travel management fraternity.” It called for a similar approach across the industry.

“Modernizing airline retailing is essential for all of the business travel ecosystem,” according to the report. “It will work only if the entire industry collaborates to ensure a beneficial solution for all and not least a beneficial outcome for our mutual customers.”