Saturday, February 4, 2023

American tells TMCs to be NDC-ready by April or lose some content access

American Airlines informed TMCs that they need to be NDC-connected to ensure no surcharges or penalties and full access to their content.

Travel agencies now need to be connected to the carrier’s New Distribution Capability technology by April 2023 to ensure access to its full range of third-party public channel content.

Without this NDC connection, American estimates that agencies will lose access to “over 40 per cent of fares available today via third-party legacy technology channels” said a report released to BusinessTravelNews.com.

The notice comes about six weeks after American announced it had signed new agreements with the three largest global distribution systems — Amadeus, Sabre and Travelport — to expand the carrier’s NDC content. At that time, Amadeus and Travelport already provided American’s NDC-enabled content, with Sabre set to be ready in early 2023.

In addition, through an NDC connection, travelers will have access to ‘enriched content with more descriptive information,’ a seat map at the time of shopping, all available enhanced third-party public channel content including enhanced offers, ancillary products and the carrier’s lowest fares, as well as enhanced functionalities and servicing features.

“The conversation [with agencies] has been ongoing for a very long time,” said American’s managing director of airline retailing Neil Geurin . “Most of the [travel management companies] that we talk to have access to NDC content for some carriers, so they’ve already figured out a way to connect to this. One thing we’ve done a little bit differently than everyone else is we waited until we were in the GDSs with NDC to launch this process, which greatly simplifies the connection.”

“We’ve talked a lot about this journey, and it’s just another step,” added American senior vice president and chief customer officer Alison Taylor.

“While they may not know the 40 per cent [figure] yet, they may not be surprised. Most of them are already ready or will be ready. We’re here to help people get ready, and we’ve reallocated some resources to be dedicated around NDC as well, to help the customer through this.”

The carrier will also reward agencies and corporates for making sure they include American AAdvantage membership in their offers, Taylor added.

“Some agencies have a one-click to join AAdvantage, and some [online travel agencies] and OBTs are doing that successfully. We will reward that behavior.”  

Further, the carrier will be able to offer bundles through NDC that are within corporate customer travel policies, officials said.

“We need to respect their policies and can do that through NDC. We can do specific bundles by customers that will support everything in policy so that is what the traveler is buying, not what is not in policy,” Taylor said.

There also will be the ability for a second type of payment if a traveler wants to personally pay for an upgrade added Geurin . About “29 per cent of our agency business comes through NDC today, and we assume we’ll be at about a third by the end of the year.”

TMCs may be concerned about the small percentage of special offers—limited-time and exclusive AAdvantage-member-only offers, that will now be available only via American-owned channels.

“Even though American says it’s a small amount of content, it does a big disservice to their best customer,” said AmTrav CEO Jeff Klee.

“If a corporate customer has to check multiple channels to make sure they are getting the lowest rate, I don’t think long-term that is in anyone’s best interest.”

 If a traveler finds a lower rate on AA.com “once, it creates mistrust between the travelers and the companies. Then they have to do all this extra work to double-check the price even if 90 percent of the time there is parity. It can bring outsized inconvenience to corporate travelers and their companies,” he added.

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