When will NDC really start to make a difference at corporate travel points of sale? Maybe next year. That’s when Amadeus expects to start testing its New Distribution Capability solution with corporate agencies, and when Travelport expects to provide agencies complete content aggregation in a single workflow.
A first step for Travelport, planned for this summer, is a standalone application bringing in NDC content that agents can see and book. According to the company’s roadmap, a unified desktop system commingling all content on the Smartpoint platform will come in mid-2019.
“In some instances, we will be consolidating through three channels,” said Travelport chief commercial officer Stephen Shurrock during a Wednesday interview. “The traditional method, a private channel for some airlines and agencies, and APIs for others.”
Such multisource aggregation isn’t new for global distribution systems. Shurrock pointed out that Travelport already brings in content through API pipes from 20 airlines, many of them low-cost carriers. But as global network carriers start going down that path, things become more complex. Some fares are surcharged and some aren’t. There may be new special fare classes with various rules attached to them.
“Imagine in the future, for a trip from London to New York, there could be all sorts of content mixed in there,” Shurrock said. “There won’t be one version of the truth. We need to get used to the fact that there will be different ways of doing that. It is our job to connect it up and pull that content together for agency users.”
Would all these flavors of content coming in through different mechanisms arrive at the agent point of sale simultaneously? “That would be the plan,” Shurrock said. “With API content, we could be searching in airline systems to get that. Some more advanced airlines are very aware of that. They are investing in capacity and the latest standards that we need to write to.”
Once the content is in agency point-of-sale systems, travel agents will need to deliver all the same post-booking services they do now. Shurrock said working with agency subscribers to maintain back-office efficiencies is “absolutely critical.”
“Big TMCs servicing corporates have invested quite a lot of money in their own systems and structures,” he added. “Trip change services, for example. We’ll need to get into some of those complexities and make sure the full functionality suite of the GDS is available, no matter what and where that booking has come from. The solution will be different from agency to agency.”
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