Lee Hayhurst caught up with Amadeus IT Group’s Clare de Bono at this year’s Travel Technology Europe trade show in London for an update on its NDC-X programme.
Continued collaboration between travel agents, airlines and GDSs will take Iata’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) from concept to widely-adopted standard, according to Amadeus.
Giving an update on Amadeus’s NDC-X programme at TTE, Clare de Bono, the firm’s IT Group’s head of product and innovation, said plenty of progress has been made in the last 12 months.
A second meeting of Amadeus’s agency NDC advisory committee is due to take place in London next month at which the firm’s technology roadmap for development will be defined over two days.
De Bono said airlines will also be attending because Amadeus recognises there needs to be collaboration between both sides to take NDC forward in a way that benefits all.
“We are in the fortunate position of sitting at the crossroads of both airline and travel agency requirements. It’s important to come up with something that works for both sides,” she said.
“When we talk about solutions for the airlines, we have travel agents in mind, and when we look at agencies we also have the requirements of airlines in mind.
“We have conversations with airlines all the time, but we are bringing them together with agents because this needs collaboration.
“The only way we are going to move the needle on global adoption is if we work together.”
De Bono said the agency advisory committee was a way of giving its customers “voting rights” on what Amadeus prioritises in terms of the evolving NDC platform and what it brings to market.
“We’re letting them decide what comes to market first. They are key to designing how it evolves and what’s important. Fundamentally what we are trying to do is find the right product for their needs.
“Whether in a professional agency environment, a corporate environment with duty of care policies, or on mobile, which is much more stripped back and simplified, you are trying to place the right product in front of the right people in the right context.
“With learning algorithms and Artificial Intelligence we can pick up nuances in a search to tell you what sort of person it is and that they are going to have different requirements in terms of what they need.
“It does not matter if that’s delivered by NDC, GDS or API, people are looking for consistency, comparability, choice and relevancy.”
With NDC bookings now happening in live environments and large technology players like Amadeus saying the technology is ready for industrialisation, 2019 is expected be a pivotal year for the new standard.
However, even the more gung ho airlines who have been at the fore of pushing the NDC agenda are predicting only 20% of bookings coming through the channel by 2020.
“Even within those airlines, 80% of bookings are going to be by traditional means. And you have other airlines who are waiting to see what happens.
“Some airlines are really pushing the needle, while others are being more cautious. So, we will be in a hybrid world for some time to come,” de Bono said.
Early travel agent adopters like Travix, Flight Centre, BCD and CWT are helping Amadeus develop solutions for NDC and define requirements for OTAs, TMCs and other agency partners.
“If 2018 was about planning, 2019 is about getting us out of the garage and making it real, pressure testing it, and 2020 is going to be about onboarding more content and bringing in more customers.
“We have help desks primed and web service implementation teams ready. We cannot just put it out there, we need to make sure it’s scaled up, it’s supported and we can handle volumes,” said de Bono.
NDC is expected to foster more innovation in the sector because of the agility and flexibility of the XML API technology on which it is based.
But de Bono said firms like Amadeus have a 30-year history of innovating and developing systems based on the old Edifact standard and that was not going to disappear.
“It’s a massive step forward versus Edifact, but we have built layers and layers of sophisticated tools and 30 years of innovation on an old platform which we have to keep going while all this happens.
“We are well place to do that, but what it does mean is that the whole industry is going to be moving forward at different paces.”
New standards for servicing bookings are being defined by Iata and expected in March and Amadeus wants to see standards for agencies to attain NDC credentials when they are on-boarded.
“Certain things are needed to help on-board agents,” de Bono said. “We believe we need to work towards standard credentials, an industry-level authentication process.
“We need a global standard to take this industrial. We have Iata numbers and office IDs which we use today to bring on new agents, so let’s try to use those.”
De Bono added: “If this is going to take off we need standards. NDC is a standard, so let’s adhere to the standard then we can get adoption and innovation.
“The more people involved in the conversation, the more openness there is the better because this is only going to work as an industry initiative if all parties are engaged.
“The most important thing is there needs to be value in this for ever body.”