Benelux blog
Let’s shape the future of travel
featuring Stefan Betz | Director, Strategy & Commercials, NDC [X],

Collaboration across the industry is the sine qua non for NDC to take off.

NDC is a concept for Intermediated Airline Distribution by design – that means it focuses on those supply chain participants that are in-between the travel provider and the traveler herself.

The success of NDC will eventually be measured by the level of sustainable adoption not merely by airlines but by all downstream players in the supply chain for travel.

Also, NDC is just one, yet critical, an enabler in the larger vision of enhanced travel retailing. It’s a vision to use sophisticated methods of conversational commerce between travel providers and the individual traveler – yet with a focus on the partners that create value in between. 

Amadeus NDC [X]  was set-up with the aforementioned focus on supply chain collaboration and we’re excited to see it paying off and delivering results. Collaboration with some of the largest and most innovative players across the industry has translated into live NDC bookings flowing through our systems at Amadeus, both as IT provider and aggregator, and the beginning of the transformation of how to travel sellers shop and buy journeys and interact with the end consumer. 

With this holistic vision, supported by flexibility and endurance as fundamental drivers, today we’re in the industrialization phase of NDC for both prime and post-booking flows and will continue in 2020. We’ve built NDC-enabled solutions together with leading travel players as members of our NDC [X] program and will keep working relentlessly in 2020 to get more bookings in production to deploy NDC at scale globally.

NDC is at an exciting stage: there are higher awareness and more engagement from the airline and travel seller communities who increasingly collaborate around us with an Industry mindset and identity, looking beyond their interests. We’re also seeing ever more serious investments and commitment to adopting the standard.

 

Looking back at 2019

As we continue towards the industrialization of NDC, in 2020 we are looking for growth. 2019 has been a year of hard work to realize the underpinnings of this growth target: As a result, Amadeus today is the only provider that can holistically deliver end-to-end NDC integration with the performance, scalability, market reach and global support in line with airlines’ strategic objectives. 

We currently hold dual Level 4 NDC certifications from IATA  as IT provider and aggregator with Amadeus Altéa and the Amadeus Travel Platform respectively. We are also certified as One Order Capable as an IT and Order Management System Provider. Navitaire has reached Level 3 certification for NDC as an IT provider.

We made great strides over the past 12 months to get airlines’ NDC content in our systems and distribute it through our two travel agency interfaces backed by the Amadeus Travel Platform. Furthermore, we have started to also feed our cytric Travel & Expense online booking tool with the new aggregated content flow including NDC – to build the prototype. Our NDC [X] partners and early adopters have been crucial to ensuring maximum ‘adaptability’ of NDC across the industry worldwide.

Whilst we’re delivering in the short term, we’re also investing to provide future-proof and scalable solutions for the long-term. Part of this is to ensure further integration of NDC content and new versions. 

Keeping this in mind, IATA’s leaderboard goal for 2020 is around the corner. It’s great to have a goal, and the industry is working towards it. NDC is a journey and one that is part of a much broader retail and digital transformation. Its massive deployment is still a few years away. But we are committed to ensuring its reality and that it serves the needs of all stakeholders across the travel supply chain.

 

How we’ll make it happen this year

In 2020, we’ll focus our efforts on four key areas. 

  • We will continue to advocate standardization and bring consistency in API interpretation as well as strengthening the IATA NDC implementation guide for the industry. We are looking at more alignment and will make headway to close the gap in 2020. 
  • We’ll also continue to emphasize servicing, as it is the key to travel seller adoption. While the prime booking flow (the ability to book a flight) is ready, the servicing part is not sufficiently standardized among the different providers to meet travel seller expectations. A stronger convergence will be necessary to secure the success of NDC. Applying vastly different flows from one carrier to another inhibits NDC to be adopted at scale (see the first point). Travel sellers require solutions that have servicing capabilities and integrate into existing travel management infrastructures to provide top-notch customer service. Therefore, post-booking servicing, reporting, and other more complex capabilities are required to be part of a minimum viable solution.
  • We’ll ensure high performance and scalability as standardization will come with its own set of challenges. For example, response times will need to improve as the standard matures; no minimum performance KPIs are defined for @scale certification; the huge number of transactions will impact IT systems of all players. We need to ensure that the travel industry benefits from the same level of performance like today, with fast response times. For this to materialize, all players need to work together on scaling capabilities.
  • NDC is all about distributing exciting new content. We are already working with several airlines to distribute NDC content via our different solutions including American Airlines, Avianca, Cathay Pacific, Corsair, Finnair, Saudia, Singapore Airlines, and Qantas. In 2020, we count on Airlines making increased use of the greater flexibility the new Standard provides to distribute innovative and more targeted content. We’ll continue to enhance our NDC-enabled Travel API and Selling Platform Connect as well as our cytric Travel & Expense solution and further roll them out to travel sellers and buyers worldwide. These solutions are backed by our Travel Platform and will allow agencies and corporations to search NDC content alongside the traditional EDIFACT content.

Amadeus is also pleased to offer airline customers that select Amadeus’ Altéa NDC solution the option to distribute their NDC content to travel sellers via the Amadeus Travel Platform. This can be done via a feature called Amadeus NDC Connect, which gives airlines greater reach to travel sellers around the world – at the flick of a switch. It helps airlines deliver more NDC content, faster, by benefiting from a fully integrated setup. 

 

Paving the way for One Order and the Retailing Transformation

We need to remember NDC is not the end-game. It’s part of a broader vision together with other initiatives such as One Order.

IATA has officially certified Amadeus’ Order Management System as “One Order Capable”. This certification reinforces our commitment to airlines’ retail transformation. For example, we are conducting two pilots using NDC and One Order in a production environment. This will enable interline and interoperability between a Full Service and a Low-Cost carrier hosted in Amadeus Altéa and Navitaire New Skies PSS’s. 

We’re committed to making the One Order initiative evolve with more pilots and working hand-in-hand with IATA and our customers to drive this change.

 

Exciting times ahead: Time to double down

In 2019, NDC was one of the hottest topics in the travel industry and a part of the broader digitization trend happening across the sector. There is no doubt it will continue to be top of mind in 2020 as part of the larger vision of travel supply chain transformation. The industry has done well so far and is on the right track. But it is not yet time to decelerate. We should double down on our collective efforts. With this renewed energy and impetus, we’re confident the industry will be able to realize the travel retailing vision behind NDC!

For more information about NDC and our NDC [X] program, have a look at our dedicated webpage.


Stefan Betz

Director, Strategy & Commercials, NDC [X]

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