Thursday, July 7, 2022

Shaping the future of Egyptian aviation through technology and innovation

Air Cairo is the first Egyptian Airline and the latest Mena-based airlines to adopt to IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) with TPConnects‘ advanced NDC Offer and Order Management Solution (OfrMS), as the airline shows its commitment to air retailing, after being granted NDC’s Level 4 Certification.

TPConnects will also providing Air Cairo with an Airlines Agent platform (NDC Agency Portal), directly integrated to Air Cairo’s Passenger Service System and IATA Financial Gateway (IFG) that will enable travel trade (both IATA Accredited and Non-IATA Travel Agents) to book air tickets, ancillaries and related services with the NDC-certified airline.

ArabiaTravelNews.com spoke to Salah Kadri, Commercial Director of Air Cairo to understand what travel agents can expect to see, as the airline digitizes their offerings for travelers.

“As one of the region’s fastest-growing low-fare airlines, it was vital for our business’ long-term growth plans to introduce the latest, cutting-edge technologies based on IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) and One Order standard.

“We are excited about this new partnership and will focus on accelerating a quick adoption of NDC transactions for Air Cairo through NDCMarketplace.com.”

According to Kadri, travel agents will now be able to search, compare, book ticket, ancillaries and perform after sales (refund, reissue etc.) on Air Cairo routes along with other airlines from various sources. In addition, agents will also be able to create sub agents, additional users, and user role permissions, create markup and service charges and generate reports, all on one window.

“Air Cairo has much to benefit from the inherent flexibility of NDC solutions including the participation of NDCMarketplace.com, which will help to improve the engagement with the travel trade and provide a range of exciting new solutions.

“The airline will retain 100 per cent control of the customer, books all the revenue and gets higher profit margins. In addition, we now have access to all the customer behavioral and transactional data. Using this data gives the airline a competitive edge by being able to offer a more personalized, tailored experience for the total customer experience,” added Kadri.

Air Cairo’s mobile app and holidays website will also be integrated with flights as well as air and non-air ancillaries allowing trade partners to sell non-air products like hotel accommodation through the NDC Agency Portal in the near future, thus transitioning to a customer-centric retailer.

The airline will continue to promote distribution through Online Travel Agents (OTAs), meta-search engines and travel aggregators – who will be provided with a NDC Application Programming Interface (API) to access Air Cairo’s booking engine including after sales-service.

“The primary need of the customer is not just buying a flight anymore but organizing their entire journey and based on this understanding, an airline can begin to sell the complete range of products and services relating to their trip. In this new normal, the success of an airline will, to a large extent, depend on how quickly they can transform themselves into a retailer who is dedicated to fulfilling their customer’s needs,” he said.

Kadri added that within a month, the airline saw a 10 per cent switch from agents who started to use the NDC channel instead of the traditional GDSs. “This reflects positively as a saving in distribution cost. Agents are motivated to switch, and the numbers are increasing steadily.”

“Of course, Airlines’ uneven adaptation to NDC is bound to make things a little difficult. But the same thing happened when e-tickets were implemented. Gradually, new solutions take precedence and agents and /or customers get used to it. They only need to be patient and follow the new standards,” added Kadri.

Coming out of turbulent times with political instabilities in the region and a global pandemic, the flexibility for up and downsizing was crucial for Air Cairo.

“We have an optimistic expansion plan to grow our fleet to 19 aircraft by the end of 2024. With that in mind, we are investing in improving our IT infrastructure and conduct all necessary training, in all departments, to ensure we are aligned to global industry standards.

Currently, regional routes are still facing moderate load factors due to travel restrictions in some destinations, yet routes from Europe to Red Sea destinations witnessed an unexpected improvement at the end of summer 2021 pushing load factors to exceed 70 per cent for the whole network.

Kadri adds, “At Air Cairo, we are working very hard to ensure quick recovery and the addition of new routes to our network with flights to Germany with 10 new routes, France with 2 new routes, Russia with 6 new routes, Tashkent in Uzbekistan, with further plans to add more routes by summer 2022 to Conakry, Ouagadougou & Dakar in West Africa, Sarajevo, Tirana, Zagreb & Budapest in Europe.

“A fleet expansion plan will also be implemented to increase the number of aircrafts by adding three new A320neo to the current seven A320s, by end of 2021 and with plans to add two more in 2022.”

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