The share of airline tickets being sold by agents has been declining as airlines increasingly choose to distribute their products through direct digital channels.
The way the world searches, plans, and buys air travel is continuously changing. Gone forever, on most airlines, is the time when a traveller or travel manager need focus only on routes, schedules, and airfare to determine the “best” flight for a journey.
Many airlines now offer “Fare Families” or “Branded Fares” to distinguish their fare products from one another, and from those of their competitors, and to help travellers find the value they seek.
Airlines’ ancillary product-focused business models extend choice and control to the traveller by letting them select, or decline, various airlines features and amenities, resulting in a more complex planning and booking process.
To help airlines, travellers, and the world’s travel agency community improve the process of searching, booking, and extracting value from scheduled airline flights,
IATA has been spearheading the development of the New Distribution Capability (NDC), a series of XML-based schemas that airlines can use to improve flight search, booking, and transaction processes via third-party channels, including GDSs and travel agencies.
NDC is designed to help airlines and agencies shift travellers’ flight purchase decision-making from commodity-like comparisons of schedule and price to a more robust, experience- and value-focused process.
How will it work?
NDC’s schemas will allow the airlines that opt to use it create personalised, relevant offers to travel agencies and their clients via the distribution channels agencies use, such as GDSs.
The objective of NDC is to help travel agencies across all segments – including retail leisure agencies, TMCs, OTAs, and others – become more competitive with airline direct channels.
NDC should enable agencies and their travellers to search and book flights based on what the traveler wants, from a fare that offers just a “seat and seatbelt” to a more comprehensive experience that includes multiple amenities and services.
Business travellers using a TMC should see their negotiated fares and any benefits negotiated between their employers and their preferred carriers. Elite-tier airline loyalty members should see the perks provided as a result of their loyalty status.
Find out more…
The recent NDC study conducted by the WTAAA indicated that travel agents in all markets had a lack of understanding about it, but highlighted that NDC’s promise would only be fulfilled if all members of the NDC provider community committed themselves to understanding, supporting and fulfilling agencies’ unique and specific needs to successfully and efficiently serve their clients once NDC is brought to market.
For more information about NDC, visit IATA’s dedicated NDC Programme Page.
The debate around IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) has been given a new dimension with today’s release of the NDC: Travel Agencies’ Enabler to Success report; the result of a global study conducted in conjunction with a number of member associations of the World Travel Agents Association Alliance (WTAAA), including ASATA.
Funded by IATA and undertaken by T2Impact and Atmosphere Research Group, the study reveals the views of global travel agents with regards to changing air travel search behaviour, the role that NDC will play within this and its impact on the travel trade.
The reports key findings are:
Travel agencies use a diverse mix of channels to book clients’ flights
As airlines have evolved what they sell, and how they sell it, agents have adjusted. Although GDSs remain the predominant channel agencies use to book airline reservations, on average, a travel agency in the survey books 26% of its air reservations outside the GDS.
Airline product complexity influences agency booking behaviour
Agents have had to respond to airlines’ evolving product strategies. To be competitive and serve a diverse mix of travellers, airlines have introduced a variety of products to the marketplace. Two categories, “Branded Fares” and airline ancillary products have influenced airline distribution strategies. For example, airlines may offer all of their optional ancillary products through their websites, but the GDSs may carry only a portion of these. To serve their clients, travel agencies use airline websites and other channels to book these products. A majority of agents in the study feel that airline websites have an advantage over GDSs in terms of content, and view the booking channel fragmentation as counterproductive.
NDC-enabled processes must be usable in multiple GDS environments
Agencies are more likely to use the GDS native display, also known as “green screen”, to book airline ancillary products than other channels. Fifty-four percent of the travel agencies in the study use the native display to book ancillaries, ahead of agency desktop solutions (44%) and proprietary agency solutions. As NDC-enabled processes are brought to market, NDC providers, which include airlines, GDSs, mid- and back-office software firms, and other travel technology firms, must create ways to present airline products and enable booking via both GDS native displays and through agency desktop applications, which use graphically rich user interfaces.
Travel agents express limited awareness of NDC
Although NDC has been discussed extensively in travel trade press and elsewhere, more than half (53%) of the agencies in the survey said they hadn’t heard of NDC before they took the study. It will be very important for each NDC provider to deliver a singular view of what NDC is, what it means, and what its value is to each of the respective stakeholder communities.
Agencies are optimistic about NDC
In spite of agencies’ limited awareness of NDC, they show considerable interest in the programme. Why? Agencies want better access to airlines’ complete catalog of fares, products and offers – and they believe NDC-enabled processes will help them achieve that. Agencies believe NDC-enabled processes will help provide easier access to all relevant airline fares and products, allow them to search for and book the content through a single GDS screen, and lead to faster transaction times.
Agencies want to be positioned for success using NDC
As a new and somewhat unknown series of processes and solutions, agencies want to be sure that NDC providers will create effective “onboarding” programmes as they begin to use NDC-enabled solutions. In the survey, agencies’ primary concerns about NDC are the costs to support NDC implementation, employee training to use NDC-enabled processes, possible added booking complexity associated with using NDC-enabled processes to search for and book flights, and ongoing product and technology support. Even though much of NDC will operate on the back-end, invisible to agencies or their clients, agencies deserve the support of the NDC provider community to ensure they are equipped withthe tools and training needed to use NDC effectively and fully.
This week saw the launch of ASATA’s new consumer website aimed at educating the public at large and corporate and government customers about the benefits of using an ASATA member to travel with peace of mind.
The new website offers travellers informative updates and travel news, key information about ASATA including its history, Code of Conduct and members of the ASATA team.
Prospective members can also source all the documentation they will need to apply for membership, while existing members can access the ASATA mobile app.
The ASATA Travel with Peace of Mind and Demystifying Travel campaigns are prominently displayed and consumers can also search for a member and see new and cancelled members’ lists.
All the trade resources you have come to enjoy are still available behind the ASATA Trade Portal login and a new CRM system is in the process of being developed to further enhance ASATA’s communications with its members.
So go have a squizz and tell us what you think!
With 20 years’ experience in the travel industry, working with both private and government stakeholders, Kim most recently led research firm Kitso Consulting and was instrumental in the development and drafting of the travel procurement strategic framework between industry and government in conjunction with ASATA.
In her new position at ASATA, Kim will be providing a senior support role to CEO Otto De Vries and will assist in delivering on the association’s key objectives and mandate.
“This new position allows me to further strengthen the meaningful relationships I have both professionally and personally within the industry. I thrive on new challenges and am looking forward to helping position ASATA members as the consumer channel of choice in the future,” says Kim.
Kim’s industry experience will be invaluable in ASATA’s efforts to deliver on its strategy of compliance, consensus and confidence within the travel industry, adds Otto. “ASATA has had the privilege of working with Kim on a critically important strategic project and we believe her contribution will further build on the work we have done to support our members as they evolve to meet the changing needs of the 21st century traveller. We wish her every success in her new role.”
All About Kim
Kim is an entrepreneur and dynamic industry player having worked at leading South African travel companies including HRG Rennies Travel and American Express.
Kim most recently ran the management consulting division of HRG Rennies Travel, completing market research projects, implementing technology solutions and creating new technology platforms for businesses in various industries. A highlight within this role was the creation, implementation and management of the strategic framework upon which the relationship between the tourism industry and government is built.
Within her various roles, Kim has worked with profitability management, implemented company strategy, managed strategic and global customers and managed teams’ outputs for the implementation of new business.
The newly appointed ASATA board takes its reins at a time when the association’s position has been strengthened and elevated, says Vanya Lessing, Sure Travel CEO and re-appointed ASATA president.
“The value of ASATA’s strategic role cannot be underestimated. Our role as a board is to provide a strategic framework for governance in the travel sector and this is through the implementation of 15 key projects which the board, together with the ASATA CEO and his team, have been driving over the past year,” says Vanya.
“This re-elected board will have a clear mandate to future plan and future proof the changing industry. As ASATA, we need to ensure the association is at the forefront of this change. This industry is ripe for disruption, we need to be the agent of that change and it is imperative that we inform the customer of the future of the value that we bring.”
Joining Vanya on the ASATA board are the re-elected Johanna Mukoki, Travel With Flair MD and Founder as Vice President, and James Sedgwick of Sure Travel, Fish Hoek as Treasurer.
Additional board members include:
- Bronwyn Philipps, HRG Rennies Travel
- Claude Vankeirsbilck, Tourvest Travel Services
- Johann Strydom, World Leisure Holidays
- Lance Smith, Avis Rent A Car
ASATA CEO Otto de Vries says the continuity of and support from the re-elected board will ensure that the association’s strategic mandates to further ensure compliance, consensus and confidence within the industry will be realised. “It is through the support of our dedicated ASATA board, that we have been successful in our efforts to champion ASATA members as the consumer channel of choice over the past year.
“We are working steadfastly to support our members in industry, government and media forums as they evolve to meet the changing needs of the 21st century traveller and to grow the stature and credibility of the association among all stakeholders,” concludes De Vries.