When Emirates Gateway, Emirates‘ proprietary platform developed using IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) was rolled out, the airline was focused on making its distribution more cost-effective while offering custom content and dynamic pricing that was suited for the changing marketplace. However, as with many other global airline companies, this meant the addition of a surcharge for ticket bookings made via the traditional Global Distribution System (GDS), a move that travel sellers struggled with as most of them were heavily dependent on GDS platforms to search and book flights. What was supposed to provide a myriad of benefits suddenly had processes and costs that seemed like a barrier for many.
Since then, the airline has taken great measures to refresh their partnership with their Global Distribution System (GDS) partners bringing more flexibility, choice and convenience, while simultaneously ensuring their NDC content is integrated into these various GDS Travel Platforms.
ArabiaTravelNews.com spoke to Anand Lakshminarayanan, Emirates’ Senior Vice President, Revenue Optimization to understand how the dynamics have changed.
“GDS and airline aggregator partnerships are very important for traditional airlines as a sizable proportion of sales are still conducted via the indirect channels. In line with the expectations of modern travelers, and to cater to the new standards emerging in the travel industry, we realized the importance in redefining our partnerships with our GDS partners and adapt to the changing dynamics in air travel.”
“It is essential that all partners in the travel ecosystem should collaborate together to facilitate progress in NDC and experiment with the new capabilities in order to reap the new opportunities it brings.
“The ultimate aim is that NDC will benefit the customers, airlines, agents and other stakeholders in the travel industry.”
According to Lakshminarayanan, elements such as rich content, dynamic pricing and bundling, all of which are not feasible with traditional EDIFACT technology have been the main driver behind Emirates Gateway.
“Emirates Gateway has enabled us to better showcase our products and services allowing our customers to make more-informed travel decisions.”
“For Emirates, development in airline retailing facilitated by NDC is a strategic priority and a core part of our distribution strategy, as we believe it will become the standard in future. Travelers’ shopping behaviors have changed, and the availability of new technology enables us to provide them with personalized shopping experiences via digital retailing,” he added.
Speaking about feedback from the industry with NDC, Lakshminarayanan is quick to point out that as with any large change initiative, there were teething challenges. “However we are convinced industry stakeholders will work together to overcome such obstacles and progressively move forward with the NDC journey,” he added.
“The initial response to adoption was surely slow, however as the benefits of the industry supported NDC program became clearer, we see an increasing interest from airlines, aggregators, travel agencies and corporate buyers.”
The pandemic too had played an important role in making the NDC relevant, he said.
“The changing landscape of consumer behaviour towards travel has made NDC more relevant in our view. With rich content, the travel seller can better understand what airline products and features they can sell to the customer. COVID has resulted in more questions from the end consumer and the information is more readily available via NDC to the agent.”
Looking ahead, Emirates is working on adding content differentiation elements into NDC, as it will benefit the consumer. Additionally, Emirates will be able to offer more ancillaries and value-added products.
“We are keen to work on products that cannot be sold today via legacy technology such as product bundles. Emirates has already embarked on an initiative to clearly understand its customer travel history, shopping behaviour and preferences on a granular level which would enable us to introduce more personalized offers in the future across various customer segments.”
“Emirates has always been a pioneer in product innovation and continue to invest in products and services to enhance our customer experience.,” Lakshminarayanan concluded.