BA has ‘same vision’ on NDC as American Airlines, says distribution chief

BA has ‘same vision’ on NDC as American Airlines, says distribution chief

Sam Robinson, BA head of distribution, spoke at the BTA conference

British Airways is “on the same journey” as partner American Airlines in developing new distribution capability (NDC) technology but the airlines have “different strategies”, according to BA head of distribution Sam Robinson.

He told the Business Travel Association (BTA) conference: “We’re on the same journey as a joint business. We have the same vision but slightly different strategies. We’re aligned in terms of where we want to get to, but how we get there will be different.”

American Airlines withdrew more than 40% of its fares from GDSs and made full content available only via NDC channels last April, then announced last month it will no longer award loyalty points to customers booking though ‘non-preferred’ agencies – those not using NDC – from May.

Robinson acknowledged: “When BA launched NDC in 2015, we didn’t have the right tools.”

But he insisted: “We have made progress. Now we have deals with Amadeus, Travelport and 20 other providers. We’ve made it mandatory that technology providers deliver on servicing [NDC bookings] before we go live.”

Robinson told BTA members: “A lot has changed over the last five years. We want to work with you. We can develop [NDC] capability and content, but we need all of you. We want you to give NDC a go and tell us where it’s not working. If we don’t know, we can’t make it work.”

He argued: “I’m not going to pretend you’ll have access to full content immediately, and I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. [But] if you’re not working on NDC, you’re going to need to.”

Amadeus UK and Ireland commercial director Steven Love suggested: “NDC could revolutionalise how travel is bought.”

He noted Iata has set a target of achieving 30% NDC distribution among leading member airlines by 2025 and 100% by 2030 and said: “We believe we’ll see a huge acceleration over the next two to three years. The future will be very different. We have to accept it.”

But Key Travel group chief executive Saad Hammad described NDC as “a half-baked solution being forced on TMCS” and asked: “How realistic is the trajectory?”

NDC is a technology standard developed by Iata to distribute fares and ancillary content to intermediaries via online APIs (application programme interfaces).