Ai Editorial: Airline IT and Embracing Change!

As a specialist in the arena of airline IT solutions, Amadeus is gearing up for the new XML-based data transmission standard in NDC as well as focused on refining its merchandising offering. Ai’s Ritesh Gupta finds out

Airlines have successfully targeted new revenue streams over the past few years, but the contribution of a PSS and the lowering of associated costs still remains a topic of discussion. It is an issue that continues to hover around the possibility of finding new ways to replace what are often termed as “old-fashioned” distribution connections.

There have been IT companies in the airline distribution technology space that have been propagating the significance of improving upon core aspects, be it for managing bookings out of the airline reservation system, apt way to merchandise offerings, settlement and reporting for every sales outlet, embracing an efficient business rules processing engine and the last component being NDC-enabled XML API.

It should be noted that the existing PSS systems, which are platforms featuring reservation, inventory and departure capabilities, have supported selling airline offerings, which have always been termed as a complex proposition.

It is often debated whether the IT specialists behind PSS’ deliberately tend to resist change and rather not succumb to an attempt by new players to enter their territory in any fashion. As a result, the new age IT players at times just come across as provider of ad hoc solutions.

So to what extent are airline IT solution companies, the owners of a PSS system, ready to embrace change?

As we all know this happens to be a crucial juncture for the industry.

At this point of time the industry is evolving to embrace a new, XML-based data transmission standard in NDC. Also, the new commerce platforms are promising to assist airlines in ensuring they offer an opportunity to a passenger to buy any air or non-air product at any touch point. Also, modern merchandising and pricing engines do not operate independently.

So can we expect an established airline IT entity to strengthen their merchandising capability? Also, develop an NDC-enabled API to ensure the content is delivered dynamically in the omni-channel shopping environment?

Christian Baillet, Regional Director – Airline IT Sales, APAC, Amadeus acknowledges that the progress is being made in the industry, and says the development of an API or even a merchandising offering isn’t a technology constraint anymore. A core aspect of merchandising is building personalised offers, which is managed by business rules, and Amadeus’ PSS makes extensive use of business rules to help airlines deliver tailored services to travellers. 

“Amadeus’ PSS system has responded to the changes in the travel landscape, and we are equipped to support airlines’ needs today for a competent merchandising strategy,” says Baillet.

“Our technology manages massive volumes of shopping transactions, works out pricing in real-time, for both simple and complex itineraries. This functionality encompasses the ability to process all sources of fares. So airlines can count on us for flexibility, and configuration and management of new products and pricing. We have been refining our merchandising engine. The technology is in place, as it is relies on open architecture, XML-based,” he says.

Why is it tough for legacy systems to manage ancillaries?

The introduction of ancillary products results in a complex scenario, something that legacy systems weren’t developed for. Management of air ancillaries requires setting up of multiple processes. It isn’t an ideal scenario for a legacy system to manage it if they don’t support a multi-host and multi domain commerce.

“Unlike legacy systems, Amadeus offers an integrated solution, based on scalable and open architecture and if any airline intends to go ahead with one vendor for the entire merchandising strategy we are up to it. But we also respect airlines’ vision if they choose to take a different approach,” mentioned Baillet, referring to the best-of-breed approach or even an airline opting to work with different partners.

So do niche IT specialists have any advantage?

“Yes, there are entities that are nimble, but then large IT players like us have our advantage in serving the needs of airlines, too. Yes, we are prepared for where the distribution landscape is headed, and soon we will be ready with our improved merchandising offering,” said Baillet “Our airline customers will have access to a full range of tools to execute their marketing and sales vision for the entirety of their content through both direct and indirect channels, with the ability to execute on product, price, placement and promotion, delivering a tailored offer to travellers at the touch point chosen by travellers.”

As for the so-called pipe or the XML-based API that simplifies distribution of air and non-air products to various distribution channels – both direct and indirect, Baillet says the team has already made progress on that count. “We fully understand the significance of such development,” he adds.

What to expect in future

“Amadeus is committed to embracing technologies to drive efficiencies and greater capabilities within our industry while supporting transparency, choice, competition, privacy and innovation in the air travel market place,” says Baillet.

He says proof of this is that Amadeus is already working with United Airlines on the only NDC-XML actually in production with a GDS. Also, Qatar Airways has also confirmed working with Amadeus for an NDC 1.1 pilot.

Based on information from the IATA website, the airline introduced a pilot to cover the design of the NDC solution (this initiative’s highlight is from a user interface and architecture perspective). It would allow the airline to make and manage NDC offers and orders.

The second phase of the pilot was scheduled to deliver ancillaries to certain Amadeus agents in the third quarter of this year. The pilot will focus on showcasing the airline's premium product across all cabins to travel agents, through an Amadeus graphical user interface connected using NDC XML data standards.

It needs to be understood that NDC is a facilitator and it is about bringing consistency in display of what airlines can offer to users across all the channels, Baillet stated. “The bigger issue here is how can we support airlines in their endeavour to know their customer better, using the data they have about their customers to personalise their offering,” he added, indicating that the airline IT solutions provider is up to it. Also, the company is also preparing for what will be a stronger push into data analytics to support better retailing.

Also, NDC-XML is only a small part of the merchandising effort underway in the industry and is far from the only connectivity standard.

“We are already seeing that usage of NDC -XML by airlines and GDSs will vary in its shape and form, resulting in a mix of EDIFACT and XML connectivity. And this is why we’re launching our merchandising system, fully integrated with our PSS suite, to enable airlines to create dynamic and relevant offerings:  any time, any point of sale or channel, direct or indirect, through any device,” he said.

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