Just months after announcing a break in their partnership, Emirates Airlines and Sabre Corporation have signed a new multi-year, worldwide distribution agreement that will provide Sabre-connected travel buyers and agencies with access to Emirates’ NDC content, without any additional GDS surcharge.
Speaking to ArabiaTravelNews.com, Dino Gelmetti, VP, Sabre Travel Solutions said, “We are delighted to reestablish our long-standing partnership with Emirates. The agreement demonstrates our commitment to creating a sustainable distribution model that benefits all constituents across the travel value chain.”
“Resulting from thoughtful discussions between both parties, our new agreement will provide both Emirates and travel buyers with immense value, removing complexity in the buying process, which is crucial to the recovery of the industry.”
NDC was always a key corporate priority for Sabre. One of the many critical enablers of the Sabre vision has been to become the leading marketplace for personalized travel.
“Far from hitting the pause button during the pandemic, we used this time to advance our NDC capabilities at pace with our customers and industry demand and the results are for all to see.”
But then such has been the impact of IATA’s New Distribution Capability, which has heralded a new, digital transformation of the global aviation industry.
“When it comes to what we are seeing across the industry, certain major airlines that have invested heavily in NDC are continue to pursue their plans. In some instances, these companies have even used this time of lower travel volumes to accelerate activities. In contrast, a longer tail of airlines are focused on near-term operations and are less advanced when it comes to NDC. Regardless of where companies are on that spectrum, at the industry level, NDC continues to be viewed as an important enabler of modern retailing and distribution. It’s more a question of pacing due to global circumstances, rather than interest,” added Gelmetti.
Gelmetti believes that a lot of that confidence will come from actions that enhance transparency, whether it is transparency related to reservation change policies or to local health and safety information.
“The service and support functions that agencies provide have never been more important. Our holistic approach – thinking end-to-end across workflows – ensures that agencies will always have their travelers’ backs, that no balls will be dropped. That’s one way we’re helping strengthen confidence.”
“The progression of our NDC program itself is another way we’re helping to fuel demand. NDC will support distribution of offer bundles differentiated with rich content and real-time notifications. NDC enables an offer and order-based retailing model to come to life. That model permits airlines to adapt quickly to changing market conditions and rapidly bring new content to market. It’s a model in which near real-time updates and non-traditional information – such as health details – can be included. This wasn’t possible using legacy technologies. So, NDC in and of itself can help nurture the recovery,” he added.
Today, Sabre is among the few companies well-positioned to invest beyond the NDC standards as both an airline IT provider and as an aggregator. This is done in three ways: by evolving retailing capabilities, protecting key agency operations and workflows, and partnering across the value chain.
“Our commitment to supporting end-to-end workflows that integrate, aggregate, index and normalize content gives sellers access to innovative content while maintaining operational efficiency. We don’t stop with shopping. Rather, we persist through the all-important agency processes, such as invoicing and itinerary, mid-and back-office applications, and duty of care considerations.”
Today Sabre’s Beyond NDC Partner program is made up of 16 leading airlines and agencies, who work side-by-side testing solutions and getting valuable feedback.
But what makes GDS systems reliable?
“The vast majority of agencies tell us that they prefer GDS-based distribution because it provides the ability to perform comparison shopping, enables efficient workflows and consolidates content in one place for easy consumption. Agency customers that have deployed direct connections to airlines have shared with us that they are expensive and inefficient, especially as content and commercial commitments evolve.”
According to Gelmetti, the message from the agency community is consistent: they continue to value fully integrated access to broad and deep travel content via the efficiency of the Sabre marketplace, enabling focus on business recovery and avoiding additional strain on agency operations.
Looking ahead Gelmetti is confident of their position in the distribution space. “I don’t expect airlines to lose sight of what the GDSs do on a global basis. In addition to the significant investments in retailing functions, infrastructure and security, airlines would have to bear all the shopping, booking, ticketing and customer service costs that the GDSs currently incur. We assume the airlines do not want to do this. In addition, we are already focusing on making next-generation improvements that will enable our customers to significantly improve their processes,” he added.
To bring the promise of NDC to life, Sabre will take their capabilities beyond shopping and booking and will integrate with retailing, distribution and fulfilment systems. Sabre’s announcements about Sabre Travel AI and its first application, Sabre Smart Retail Engine, combined with the launch of the new airline storefront and their NDC efforts, is testament to how they want to develop a scalable retailing, distribution and fulfilment model.
“Deploying NDC capabilities in our points of sale – Offer and Order APIs, Sabre Red 360, and GetThere – ensures that our customers can distribute the kind of tailored and personalized content that travelers want to buy and airlines want to sell. Rich content offer bundles and personalized travel options are not useful if travel sellers and travelers cannot access them. NDC ensures a consistent distribution experience, regardless of channel,” said Gelmetti.
Gelmetti beleives that in the long-term, NDC will become ordinary. “But what will be extraordinary is the type of content that becomes available and the sorts of experiences we enable thanks to NDC.”
“People want relevancy in the form of personalization, reassurance and value when they travel. NDC holds the promise of providing consistent access to the kind of innovative content that addresses these three elements. NDC is a cornerstone of the infrastructure of a more flexible travel industry that supports economic growth for suppliers and sellers and experiential growth for travelers,” he added.