WTM 2022: Oman Air tech investment to offer a 'different flavour' of airline distribution

WTM 2022: Oman Air tech investment to offer a 'different flavour' of airline distribution

The Gulf Carrier's recently appointed chief commercial officer Adouby Nasser explained what the airline aims to achieve with bespoke NDC platform being built with Accelya 

Oman Air aims to become more "laser-targeted" in how it works with trade partners through a bespoke New Distribution Capability (NDC) platform built in partnership with tech firm Accelya.

Speaking to Travolution at this week’s World Travel Market trade show in London, Aboudy Nasser, the Gulf carrier’s chief commercial officers, said the airline is approaching NDC in a unique way.

An experienced airline executive, Nasser left Manchester Airport Group this year to join Oman Air - an early adopter of NDC that is looking to forge the future of distribution and order management.

Nasser said the Accelya platform will provide technology considered as an enabler for Oman Air to drive what he sees as a “sales transformation programme” over the next five years at the airline.

“We are getting them to build a product that is quite unique to us,” he said. “It has all the usual features of NDC but we are adding more.”

Nasser said no airline has yet to “get NDC right”, particularly where they do not have the power to influence the trade and drive direct connect outside of their home markets.

“Essentially what we have done is work with Accelya on a version of the product that has different features. It will allow us to be laser-targeted in how we deal with different travel agents.”

Oman Air will be able to provide its trade partners with offers that are specific to them and the requirements of their customers.

Nasser said this approach will transform old ways of how airlines work to incentivise trade partners by being able to develop offers specific to their needs on an agent-by-agent basis.

The offer will be different based on origin or final destination and customer type like whether the agent is dealing with a VFR (Visiting Friends and Relatives) client or a corporate customer travelling for business.

This will not only determine the nature of the products offered, like baggage and seat selection, but also ancillary services that can be added, like a meet and greet service.

“That’s very different to the way other airlines are looking at things. They see it as a way of driving away from the GDS, actually we are looking to be closer to our GDSs.

“We can connect the GDS to our NDC API and that way we can offer them their own specific offers and packages for agents that want to continue selling through the GDS.”

Oman Air believes its approach will not only reduce costs but also drive more higher value customers to its services and that this will allow it to increase yields without necessarily rising prices.

As Oman Air works to drive more visitors to the country, it will be a calculation of the value of each customer per kilometres flown that will come to the fore.

“Strategically, we don’t want to be a one size fits all operator. Our strategy is to squeeze our capacity by operating our flights with a higher value customer,” said Nasser.

“It will be up to the travel agent. They can have the vanilla flavour from the traditional GDS or the multi-flavoured, with sprinkles on top that the customer actually wants.

“The GDS is just a distribution mechanism; it’s a path to market. We are ultimately the supplier for the demand and the demand is the customer.

“We are after that customer segment where the value is for us which the GDS is never going to do for us.”

Oman Air is also planning to invest in technology to help it know not only its current customers better but its potential customers.

Nasser likened this to Amazon-style online retailing, where the carrier will know what the customer wants even before they do themselves.

“We are working with a technology partner that looks at what people are talking about and to target those people who have not necessarily booked with Oman before.

“What that will come a whole new website and mobile app that’s not just vanilla flavoured but are more intuitive that knows what the customer is looking.

“Based on search criteria we can offer things that makes sense to them. If the ancillaries that come up on screen are more tailored to the customer it helps drive demand.”

Nasser said post COVID airlines have to redefine themselves. “It all comes down to what is your strategy. Airlines have to work out who they are and what they do.

“We had a period pre-COVID where we had a perfect storm of mass capacity coming in to the Middle East and all that was doing was driving down yield and that was not good for anybody.

“We are asking ourselves who are we, and what do we stand for and based on that what do we need to achieve; our vision. As part of that exercise we are going through a brand and culture change.

“We are working with M&C Saatchi looking at what are brand stands for and how to bring the best of Oman, which is a very warm and hospitable place, into Oman Air.

“By having a differentiated brand we want to bring that into everything we do, on the ground, in the office and how we operate in the air and technology is an enabler of that.”