Ai Editorial: NDC and travel agents – how is the combo coming along?

First Published on 15th March, 2019

Ai Editorial: Working out multiple connections would require a substantial level of investment and IT skills. How can travel agencies prepare for both NDC and non-NDC content, probes Ai’s Ritesh Gupta



The impact of IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) on the traditional agency channel is being keenly followed. A couple of issues are - how are these stakeholders going about the major booking flow redesign and also what sort of investment is required on their part to invest in NDC interface adaptation and costly IT integration.

Even airlines recommend measured changes to the agency workflows and evaluating the significance of scalability, even as they step up their focus on NDC content.

As airlines look to sharpen their retailing capabilities in their chosen indirect channels, its impact on agents’ is being assessed. For instance, how comparison shopping is going to shape up in the future. Indirect channel also acknowledges the need for supporting airlines in their quest to sell more seats, baggage, insurance and lounge passes through travel agents.

Seamless transition – is it possible?

As a key player in the entire travel distribution and technology domain, Travelport asserts that agents need familiarity and consistency with booking tools. “We’re likely to be operating in a world of mixed content for many years,” Ian Heywood, Travelport’s Global Head of Product and Marketing, mentioned at the beginning of this year. “It’s essential that we work together to drive NDC forward.”  

A couple of developments that stand out as far as Travelport is concerned:

  • Travel technology specialists like Travelport are trying to ensure that agencies are able to access NDC content in the same workflow as other content.
  • Last year the company chose to focus on the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) methodology and lean agile principles for product development, working in conjunction with agencies and adapting via learn and test approach.

Another area that is being focused on upon – the impact on mid- and back-office processes being used today.  

Indirect channel also acknowledges the need for supporting airlines in their quest to sell more seats, baggage, insurance and lounge passes through travel agents.  

While the idea of presenting same offers/ content that airlines have their own channels on the all indirect channelsis enticing, how to work on the same demands introspection into certain areas.

Airlines are introducing their own platforms, offering a connection via NDC XML API. Among the recent ones is Qantas. The airline’s certified platform supports shopping, booking and servicing capabilities. Even as aggregators are looking at normalizing content to make it available across multiple point-of-sale interfaces, there are specialists who believe that agents can look at new solutions.  

Agents can connect via NDC XML API or an approved technology partner connection, but these platforms typically do not have a customer-facing user interface (UX or GUI). Direct connectivity isn’t new, so how are agencies looking at this commercial association considering they have to prepare themselves? As highlighted in one of Ai’s recent editorials, it is being indicated that various channels (APIs and airlines’ own user interfaces) introduced by airlines is not going to help airlines to scale and generate NDC transaction volumes.

“Agents are already dealing with multiple screens and they will be least interested to switch between multiple UIs provided by each airline,” shared a source, adding that a high majority of IATA registered travel agents lack the e-commerce infrastructure.

As a specialist, TPConnects recommends that travel agents should have their own supplier agnostic systems going forward.

The decision-making is being closely followed, as the industry is trying to evolve, with more airlines continuing to introduce segment channel fee on bookings made by agents who do not participate in the airline NDC channel.


Hear from senior industry executives about latest developments related to NDC at this year’s Ancillary Merchandising Conference, scheduled to take place in London, UK (9-11 April, 2019).

For more info about Ancillary Merchandising Conference, click here

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