The concern in the TMC community, that airlines and IATA have overlooked the complexity of business travel in the drive to get them to adopt NDC ways of working, appears to be growing. So, what are the pitfalls of the New Distribution Capability (NDC) and where do we go from here?
On the surface, it’s easy to make the case that NDC brings benefits to all involved in the new way of working together. Faster innovation than legacy GDS, building deeper relationships with the traveller by personalising every interaction with them, and the promise of new products direct from the airline.
However, when you get past this and into the operational world of the TMC, a host of fundamental issues in NDC adoption mean that trying to improve one area of distribution has a negative, cascading impact on the TMCs ability to provide an end-to-end managed travel service. It’s commonplace for TMCs to use multiple booking workflows to build an itinerary for a traveller, to help manage these sectors agencies will often use passive segments in the GDS to keep everything in one place. It’s not perfect today, some segments are not added to the GDS, but when we add into the mix NDC flight segments then the situation gets much worse, very quickly.
Risks for Agencies and Travellers Alike
From the agencies' perspective, they have another workflow their consultants need to learn and systems to support but a more significant challenge still, is the loss of visibility of the traveller's trip in its entirety. They cannot use the GDS as a view of the wider itinerary. Consider a scenario in which an outbound flight segment is booked via NDC, the return via the GDS, and ground transportation is booked on a third service. Where does the agency go to get a holistic view of the trip? When a traveller wants to make a change, how does the consultant make sure all booking elements are kept in sync?
From a travellers perspective, this fragmentation brings yet more travel documentation, as they potentially receive their NDC flight segment separately from other flight, hotel, and ground transportation segments. This not only represents a retrograde step for the industry but is also likely to increase traveller friction, as business trips become more stressful for travellers.
Where do we go from here?
What is needed, is a service that takes us beyond where we are today, by aggregating and consolidating multiple booking workflows into a single traveller centric view of the itinerary. The benefits of which are twofold: firstly, to support and alert the consultant, keeping everything in sync. Secondly, to delight the traveller with a single coherent document that lets them focus on their trip.
Airlines and IATA need to spend more time with an important part of their distribution channel, the TMC, to make sure they understand that they aren’t just distributing flight segments but managing their clients travel budget.
What Can TMCs Do?
While the ideal scenario is more a frequent and candid dialogue between Airlines and TMCs on the shortfalls of the NDC, there are a few things TMCs can do in the meantime. Firstly, TMCs should look to gain a complete understanding of what becoming NDC ready requires, from this base point a comprehensive investigation into whether supply chain partners are ready can be made—doing so, should ensure that traveller disruption during the transition period is minimised.
TMCs can also look to minimise the impact on their travellers by taking control of communication and travel document delivery. By using an itinerary management solution, TMCs can offer travellers a single consolidated invoice and itinerary for the trip—mitigating much of the confusion likely to be caused by the NDC. For consultants, using a document delivery solution provides a single holistic view of most of the traveller's itinerary, again reducing confusion and allowing for accurate tracking and management of the traveller's expenses and trip.
For more information on the challenges of NDC and how you can improve trip fragmentation, download our free ebook.