Getting NDC to scale: It’s not really about the pipes anymore
NDC has moved well beyond its early days of commercial and technical debates. The percentage of direct connect (NDC) bookings in the indirect channel doubled from five to ten percent during 2020, and is projected to increase.
Constituents across the value chain agree: NDC is here. It is the method by which airlines can most effectively retail unique offers to consumers in indirect channels.
The question is: how do we take NDC to its next level? In this session, our panel of esteemed industry experts identified three key requirements for NDC at scale.
Three must-haves for NDC at scale:
1. More differentiated airline content
Differentiated airline content via compelling, relevant offers is the single biggest driver of NDC adoption. Defining the “special sauce” of the airline’s offer is the heart of a successful NDC strategy.
“Once we stopped comparing ourselves and we started focusing on what makes us unique and what’s the value proposition that we bring to the table, that’s where our strategy really came alive.”
—Tina Larson, Hawaiian Airlines
2. Improved visualization in the shopping experience
Delivering a modernized shopping experience that effectively showcases airline offers is critical. ATPCO’s Next Generation Storefront is a program that addresses this through data, standards, and Routehappy content.
“NGS goes hand-in-hand with NDC. It’s the visualization component of NDC. So now I have the pipe, I can produce the product, I can distribute the product. Let’s make sure the customer can interpret the product.”
—Graham Wareham, ATPCO
3. Support for the end-to-end TMC (Travel Management Company) process
The last mile for broad NDC adoption is closing the gaps between existing systems and new methods—and it’s critical for TMCs to serve their corporate clients.
“Some of the barriers we’re seeing now is the old and the new working together. Because without that working together, we lose our billing system, our duty of care for the customer, all of which is important on the business travel side, and that’s what holding them back. We need to get that end-to-end piece working.”
—Mark Ridley, Amadeus
NDC has made some strides since its inception, but the time has come to talk less about the pipes and more about the content that flows through those pipes. NDC is a messaging standard, but it really is a method to retail unique airline offers to consumers on indirect channels. Join us now for a panel discussion about how our industry can unlock NDC’s full potential.
Well, thank you everyone for joining. My name's Cory and I have the privilege of moderating this panel of illustrious industry participants to talk about what it's going to take to get NDC to scale, and I really, I couldn't imagine a better panel to do this with.
We've got joining me here we have Jim Davidson, chief product officer of Accelya, formerly known in the industry as the godfather of NDC.
We've got Graham Wareham, director of business development for NDC at ATPCO. He was formerly a noted NDC innovator while at Air Canada.
We've got Mark Ridley, head of the NDC[x] program at Amadeus. And Amadeus really has been at the forefront of NDC amongst its GDS and PSS peers, so we're happy to have Mark here today.
And also joining us is Tina Larson, the managing director of everything at Hawaiian Airlines but more specifically distribution sales strategy and alliances, who really in my opinion is one of the future stars in the airline industry, so I’m really happy to have her on the panel here today as well.
But kicking off this topic of how we're going to get to NDC at scale, I thought I might have a little grandpa moment here and give you some prehistoric musings of my own time with NDC and some of its historical beginnings because I think understanding the future of NDC starts with an understanding of its past. And my story of NDC actually started back in 2006, six years before the NDC standard took effect.
I was with American Airlines at the time and the distribution strategy team, and we had just gotten done with our latest round of full content agreements with the GDSs, and we were just scratching our heads trying to figure out what we were going to do next. And at that point the big problem was cost. And we needed an alternative for getting our content out into travel agencies’ hands that wasn't the GDS.
And so when NDC first began, at that time it began as an idea for just a pipe. It was just a pipe to convey information to make bookings and save costs.
But everybody knows that over a period of time, the airline business model changed. The ancillary trend came about, airline products became more and more complex, and that required a new way of distributing products through travel agencies.
And it turns out that NDC turned out to be a pretty good answer to that as well. But there were several problems with NDC, particularly in the early going.
Some of them were technical, but many of them were commercial. And so on the commercial side of things we had restrictions in the marketplace imposed largely by GDSs on all of the various parties that touched the GDSs. We had full content commitments that airlines were making to GDSs, which meant that airlines couldn't hold out their lowest fares for their least expensive channels like NDC. We had financial incentives in the marketplace, GDSs paying agencies financial incentives to remain loyal to the GDS platform, and if agencies fail to reach their booking volume commitments, being faced with shortfall penalties. And then we had GDSs using their relationships with authorized developers that wanted to come in and aggregate GDS and non-GDS content together. There were some famous examples of aggregators that that ultimately couldn't make it to the marketplace because they were effectively kicked out.
But like I said, it wasn't all commercial issues in the beginning. In the beginning it was also technical issues. When NDC first came about, airlines struggled to get their NDC connections up to snuff so they did all the basic things the right way. And then beyond that, even the airlines that had the best NDC APIs didn't necessarily have connections with any kind of platform at travel agencies to be able to aggregate that content and manage that content. And then depending upon the travel agency, adopting NDC was a big issue if you were a travel agency that had a call center where everybody used green screen, then adopting NDC was not just a technical issue, it was a personnel issue as well.
So that's kind of the history of where NDC came from and what some of the challenges were in the very beginning.
But of course we're here to talk about what's going on today and what we see going on in the future, but I will just say where we stand today in the market is not at wide adoption of NDC.
T2RL's own statistics showed that in 2019, about five percent of indirect channel bookings globally were done through some form of direct connect. That bumped up to a little bit over 10 percent in in 2020 amidst the pandemic.
We can all have our guess as to whether that's going to stick around or not, but heading in the right direction, but certainly pretty low, but we've seen this before. E-tickets took a while to be adopted as well. I took e-tickets over 10 years before it moved above 20 percent adoption.
So with those prehistoric musings now behind us, we'll turn the attention to the panel.
Yeah, I want to start with Jim Davidson, here, the godfather of NDC himself. Jim, in your younger days you railed against commercial barriers to NDC adoption while being depicted as an animated bobble head in videos that would have made Pixar proud. Remember that? And I got one too.
My question for you, Jim, is have we moved past the era of the bobble head? And to what extent have the commercial barriers eroded and the technical barriers become the greater issue?
Thanks, everybody, for allowing me to join this panel as the, I guess the patriarch, the old guy. You know it was NDC that made me old, so I’m really not that old.
Look, I think as you've said in your opening, I think there's still commercials out there but they're actually quite different commercials. When you look at NDC, what's happening in the marketplace, you see the commercials are now kind of expanded. You see commercials between airline and actual travel agencies, you see new set of commercials between airlines and aggregators, and even commercials that are different between airlines and GDSs all revolving around NDC.
So there's still some rumors out there that there's some barrier commercials that are going to get broke down, but I don't think those are going to stop the adoption over time because it's really shifted, as you said, from an alternative to making bookings to really this is where content will flow down these new pipes. So the game has shifted from commercial to content and scale.
So yeah, no more bobble heads, as much as I enjoyed those.
It's really about scale now and I think that's really where, I know we're going to get into this, but the challenges technically will come out as we get scale. With any new technology, whether it was e-tickets back then. You really need to have scale to really determine if you've got some technology challenges there. I think there's a lot of people that have done pretty well with their extended, and I’ll say experiments, but not in a in a negative way and I think it's scale that's going to really be the game changer here as we go forward in order for the airlines to get true content down to everybody who wants it.
So a lot of people when they hear the word scale they're thinking of non-functional elements of technology, you know can you take the volume, can you respond in a short enough period of time? Is it all about the non-functional part of technology, or is also about some just clear functional gaps that NDC has today that need to be closed?
Yeah, that for me still?
That's for you still.
Yeah, I thought maybe Graham wanted to take it.
So I think it's both. there's certainly functional gaps. Again with any new technology, as airlines start to consume this and they start to offer this, this kind of new content delivery, it does have the aspect of can you run a pricing engine at the levels you need to manage your own search now? Can you run your merchandising engine at the levels where you want to do dynamic bundling or dynamic pricing? Those all put challenges out there.
So and then I think there's also the scale around the adoption scale. You know, it's not just magic that if you have an airline has an NDC API and says here my store is open, come and get it. There is a whole onboarding process that has various components to it and I think there's a big piece of where the investment at scale is going to be made. Ultimately, the GDSs are going to be hooking differently to the airlines and they already are today and I know Mark's going to get into some of that, but it's all the aggregators and all the individual travel agencies that want to have a different relationship with an airline that they have, and that is a big piece of the scale, how we onboard these people.
Great, thanks, Jim. Mark Ridley of Amadeus, how about you get in here. Any reaction to what you're hearing from Jim?
I mean I’m going along with what he says very much. You know scale is more than just the technology. Of course that's going to be very important and big systems like ours obviously going to support a lot of that, but also we're talking about the, let's say the breadth of the market. How do we get it out, how do we get NDC into the hands of many travel agents?
The travel agencies are now starting to understand what NDC is and that's a kind of big battle and probably a whole other conversation, but what we're trying to do is, we're trying to roll out across our entire network throughout this year. So with we're worried about something close to 3,000 travel agencies who can now have access to NDC content. Obviously like everybody else we're trying to get more and more airline content onto the platform so we can build up the scale on both sides, and it's the network effect that we all need the virtuous circle so we can all get things going.
So Amadeus is clearly really active, really impressive to hear that you're going to be cutting across the whole network this year with an NDC rollout. Perhaps Amadeus feels like it's getting pretty close to NDC at scale. What would you say were the two or three things that were really standing in the way of getting there?
I think, okay so I talked to airlines, I talked to travel sellers. So what we're hearing from a lot of travel sellers is why do I need NDC now? The what's in it for me? And the real answer is going to be, once we start getting differentiated content from the airlines, things that they can do differently through NDC which maybe not impossible under EDIFACT, but was very difficult under EDIFACT, all of those lovely things, like additional price points, dynamic pricing, bundles, all that great stuff which we know is there. And we're coming and are coming the agencies need access to that and our story is airlines like to go direct, but if you want to be in the game and be able to sell, you need access to exactly that same content.
Now most airlines now are starting to see that indirect distribution is still a very important channel for them, so they're starting to think about, it's not just about direct now. We want to put the same offers across everywhere. Some are keeping them to their own channel but more and more becoming open. I think as we see that breadth of content, and hopefully Tina will mention that, because I think airlines pushing something different, not just the stick of the surcharge but the carrot of the good stuff that's to come, and you know if you want to differentiate yourself as an airline that's the way you're going to do it. It's how can you bring something new to the market that actually the traveler is going to be impressed by and want to buy.
Yeah, it's a great point, talking about the value proposition brought forth by airlines. I could see how it may have been difficult for agencies over a period of time because airlines don't coordinate their strategies and don't coordinate their product offering or the timeline of their NDC implementation, and so it was probably very difficult for agencies to get a sense of when will the overall airline product offering be at critical mass in order for me to jump.
Yeah, can I just say one thing before I’m sure you head over to someone else, is still a lot of airlines are very early on in their own strategy of knowing what they want to do and what type of content they want to put in which channel. And I think we need some maturity there of different types of offer into the market and the chance for the airlines to really start competing against each other on content and not just about price.
Great, thanks, Mark.
I’m turning my attention to Graham Wareham of ATPCO. I want to start Graham just with the basic question of whether you agree or disagree with anything that you're hearing so far.
I agree with most of it, for sure, the only thing probably that struck me at the beginning was when a carrier is going to start to differentiate their content.
I think, Cory, back in the American days, you've been differentiating your content for a very long time and the difference between one airline and another is already there. It's about visualization.
So if the consumer can't necessarily understand the differences and why would there be a premium, right, so a lot of it's around visualization and how the product is interpreted by the consumer and the travel agency in the marketplace and how can that be improved through NDC. So I think I agree with almost everything that was said except for that.
So you're highlighting visualization as another barrier to NDC adoption. If the world were up to you, just Graham Wareham, what would you do to solve the visualization barrier?
Well, I mean it's not just up to me, unfortunately, but I do represent ATPCO here, so I think it's around making it simpler to consume the products, simpler to get onto what it is each of the constituents in the channel want to do. Travel agents want to serve their customer the best they can and give them the best products that match what they want. If the travel agent can't determine that, they have a very hard time satisfying the customer. The airline wants to sell the best product they can to the customer. If they're not being represented correctly or shown correctly, visualized correctly, they can't do that either.
So it's all about everyone wanting to do the right thing towards the customer, and at the same time optimize revenue, satisfaction, all of those things. And having an infrastructure and standards and easily consumable data is the way we scale.
And so one of the things that that ATPCO has done or attempted in the past is around Next Generation Storefront. And the Next Generation Storefront effort has been around quite a while.
Can you tell me a little bit about what ATPCO's learned, good or bad, from that process?
Yeah, sure. I think what we've learned, the first iterations of NGS were around an algorithm and trying to standardize comparison, shelves, drawers, that kind of stuff.
I think what we've learned is let the sellers do what sellers do best. Let the sellers satisfy their customers’ search criteria, let the sellers find the stuff. What they need is good data, to be able to get to it.
So I think what we found in NGS is all about the data. NGS is around having standard definition and standard interpretation of attribute definition. Once that exists, let the seller go crazy with the way that they're going to represent the products and compare the products. They're going to be market-driven, the customers are going to drive them to do the right thing.
And the thought is, as those displays improve, then that's kind of a natural shot in the arm for NDC adoption as well, since NDC delivers a lot of that?
I think so. I think NGS, from our view, NGS goes hand in hand with NDC. It's the visualization component of NDC. So now I have the pipe, I can produce the product, I can distribute the product. Let's make sure the customer can interpret the product. And that's what NGS is around. So it's still on the topic of standardization.
I know we didn't we weren't able to get somebody from IATA to join us today but you were involved in the IATA NDC standard from the very beginning, Graham, and you were, what, chairman of the passenger distribution management group at one point?
I think only because you stepped back and I forgot.
Appropriately delegated, imagine a better person for the job, but IATA clearly has elevated the NDC standard to what it is and has done a lot of work around standardization, has various levels of certification including NDC at scale. Can you give me your readout of how standardization has gone in the industry so far and any room for improvement that you see?
Well, I think you know it's always easy to Monday morning quarterback and look back and say what we didn't do right. I think you know what's happened over the years, probably took too many years to happen, but probably needed to happen in the sequence it did.
I think now the standard might be a little too flexible and too difficult for people like Mark to consume at scale or get on board sufficiently enough people to do that.
So we think that a role that ATPCO could play anyways, is as the producer of a reference implementation so can we produce based on the NDC standard a reference implementation that kind of gives a pathway to how the easiest way to consume the standard is, which hopefully can take out a lot of the gray and make it a lot easier to scale.
So that's something we want to do with you know we started some conversations around this. We started with all of the GDSs as well as the airlines and trying to do what ATPCO does, we gain consensus. So we'll stand up work groups and design teams and get consensus and try to build out a reference implementation that everyone can point to. Which wouldn't replace the standard, it would work in concert with the standard.
Okay, that makes sense.
I want to turn the page here and talk to Tina Larson. This video is being filmed at a time of day which I think is objectionable to most people, Tina included. When you're in Honolulu, Hawai?i, so thank you for joining us, Tina.
I clearly drew the short straw.
Hawaiian to have success with NDC too? Yeah, I mean for Hawaiian the door I think has definitely swung open. I think the large carriers who were the early adopters really did a nice job in paving the way to make it easier for mid-sized carriers to enter the space now. When I think about our experience at Hawaiian, we sat back for a while and watched and learned what was going on. I think Jim can attest to how many conferences I followed him around trying to pick his brain to learn more about NDC. And we struggled for a while to understand how did NDC fit at Hawaiian. At first we thought it was corporate, and it wasn't corporate, and there was numerous flavors of NDC, so it was really difficult to understand what that meant for us. But I think once the business, or the industry started talking more consistently about the retailing capabilities and how NDC can help facilitate to become better retailing, that that really spoke to us and then we understood.
And then that combined with working closely with our revenue management team on what are new offers and what can we offer to the industry and utilize NDC to get it in all channels really helped us build a more compelling business plan to get this approved.
I think we also initially thought NDC was too big of a technical project that we couldn't do internally because of the resources, so really understanding the technology partners that were out there and who we felt best fit Hawaiian. And so our partnership with Accelyia has been instrumental in getting NDC off the ground.
And so now as we are having conversations with several partners in the vertical, I think about the conversations we're having today versus several years ago where I think the door was shut in our face, there was just a hard no, but now we're seeing a lot more openness.
We're having conversations with the GDSs. They understand what we're trying to achieve. I think NDC isn't new anymore, and a lot of the travel agencies that were not all that interested have now come to us saying that they'd like to be our launch partner, so I think a lot of the work that the leaderboard has done has been really helpful because it's made a lot easier for us now to enter into the space.
Very good. Do you think, does that have a positive or negative or a neutral effect on your distribution strategy options?
Well, I think it provides another option for us, so it's positive. It gives agencies options in how they want to connect to us. And so I just think it broadens it, and I think before we were stuck in legacy agreements and we really had no path forward, but I think NDC now gives us that path so that we can enter into better agreements that better fits our business model.
So as a as a mid-sized carrier what advice would you have to another mid-sized carrier in a different part of the world that is similarly situated to Hawaiian? What do you think are the key components of a successful NDC strategy for a mid-sized carrier?
Well, I think it applies to any carrier to develop a very clear and comprehensive overall distribution strategy so that you clearly understand where NDC fits and know what exactly you're trying to achieve.
I would say don't focus on what everyone else is doing. I think we did that at Hawaiian for a few years. We watched what United was doing, what American was doing, and then we tried to copy that. And now we realize what the bigger carriers are doing doesn't necessarily apply to us. We're a unique carrier with a unique business model and we have unique content to offer. That's very different from the likes of United or American in many ways. And so once we stopped comparing ourselves and we started focusing on what makes us unique and what's the value proposition that we bring to the table, that's where our strategy really came alive. So yeah, I would say don't compare yourself.
And then as far as an implementation, build solid relationships across your company and don't go at this alone. I think sometimes the distribution team may try to tackle this on their own and then they build something that nobody else in the company understands, and so I would say develop strong partnerships with revenue management, with your IT, with finance.
We've done that and our implementation has been going really well and it's all a result of that teamwork.
That's great and really exciting to hear your perspective on this.
I want to open it up with for a question for anyone, and that is if you could change one thing about any other stakeholder in the value chain in order to drive faster or deeper NDC adoption, what would it be?
Anyone who wants to enter can speak first, we'll be nice.
Okay, I can jump in. I’m never shy even though I’m old.
So I think both Mark and Graham hit on it. I think it's the visualization. And so we're heading down this path where everybody now is doing exactly what before NDC we did with direct connect, as everybody had their own and there was no standardization. And I think when you look at how we want to deliver content, you start to think about what does it take to put a standardization on a travel agency desktop from a visualization point of view. Now I know that's got a lot of long tails to it but I do think if there's a tremendous amount of investment. This is exactly what happened with early direct connects.
Every airline invested in their own and there was a lot of monies being spent, so that's one of the reasons IATA got behind it. The same thing has happened with the visualization aspect, could there be a need out there or could there be a solution out there that sells it for all travel agencies and all GDSs and pool some of that money through some more kind of universal visualization portal or something like that.
So I think the thinking around that would be where I would like to see some thought changes. We're still being very proprietary around something I don't think needs to be proprietary.
Great, thanks, Jim.
And Mark here at Amadeus has gone far down the path of rolling out NDC to its travel agency customers. Can you tell us a little bit about the light bulbs that go on for travel agencies when they start actually using the new system?
Yeah, sure. I think there's been a lot of focus first off on the original booking. We call it prime booking flow. It's how you're doing the search especially and how you bring those offers in front of the travel agent. All of that is mega important, but what we're finding is for you as an airline to get to those corporate clients, you want to get at the people in the BTA segment.
They have a lot of downstream processes which NDC has to work with those, otherwise you know that becomes a huge barrier to adoption. They need, things are changing all the time, so with or without the whole pandemic thing flights get canceled, there's schedule changes, people's meetings change, so it's just normal business that people need to service a booking. And so that becomes very important as a lot of our big customers they're saying, okay, we need to be able to service it the same way as we did with EDIFACT.
So in some cases our competitor is not Travelfusion or some of the other aggregators. In fact our own EDIFACT technology, which has been built over 30 years, where all of the servicing is there. One of Jim's customers, Qantas, recently said, we want to be better than EDIFACT now. And I think that's the great standard that we need to push towards. All of the old PSS technology which beyond the pipes is maybe somehow limiting us, that has to move on.
And as we maybe start to adopt ONE Order as we move forward because we see NDC, ONE Order, this whole retail transformation as being one piece, maybe that's gonna help. Because some of the barriers we're seeing now is how do we make the old and the new work together, because without that working together, we lose our billing system, our duty of care to the customer to follow up where they are, all of which is important, certainly on the business travel side. And that's what's holding them back to EDIFACT because they know they can get their bookings in their mid and back office system and all of those other systems flow. So we need to get the end-to-end as industry. We need to get that end-to-end piece working. We're not going to compete on those nuts and bolts but without them there, it's holding us all back.
So, Cory, can I just answer your, pretty quick, little bit. So rather than point at any one individual or any group, I would say everybody in the ecosystem, whether you're a seller, GDS, an airline, technology provider, or ATPCO, there's a value to be found in NDC.
Start looking for the value for yourself. The technology is there, the level of information and data, the communication is there to satisfy our customers better than ever before. Instead of pushing back and seeing this as an airline-driven thing or a GDS-driven thing or whatever it is.
Look at it for yourself, look at where you sit in the ecosystem and what our objective is. What the objective is to satisfy the customer. Customers are demanding NDC not the airlines. The customers are demanding product change, not the airlines.
We need to look at ourselves and get in the game, become a part of this, because the solution's there now. All we need to do is scale it.
Yeah, it's a good point. And Mark made a similar point, which is that this isn't just technology for technology's sake. NDC isn't good or bad in and of itself, but NDC is a response to a need, a business need and the customer need to deliver new service and new benefits.
And it just so happens that when you focus on the outcomes that you want, you'll find the tech, the best technology to do that with in the long term will be NDC. But we do need to, for sure from an end-to-end perspective.
I want to turn our attention to the final question for the panel today. I’ll give each of you a chance to answer this one and that is, what's your picture of NDC success? What will we know or how we know when NDC has reached scale?
And I’ll start with Mark on this one.
I think we'll know when it's reached scale is when we see obviously the majority of our travel sellers making the majority of their bookings for an NDC channel. And when they're coming to ask us, when they're coming to say, why haven't you got this airline yet? Why haven't you got that airline yet? Why are they behind, why aren't they with us? so we want it to, from that aspect, the demand side, is really pulling.
Tina, how about you? What would your picture of NDC at scale look like?
I think when we stopped relying on 40-year-old technology to distribute our products in a modern retailing world.
That sounds like a really tall request. In an industry with e-tickets that have four coupons and nobody in line.
Do you have a date for that, Tina?
Not yet. I'm still working on our invitation.
Graham, how about you? What's your picture of what it will look like when NDC is at scale?
Graham I think we stop calling it NDC, and it's just airline distribution. It's just how you get product and it's just, I mean, it's a tool. It's not it's not the endgame, it's a tool, and there'll be a number of tools. It should just be looked at as that. It's not the revolution that it should be, it should just be something embraced. As technology advances, we embrace this and we satisfy our customers better. So when we stop saying NDC and we just start calling it airline distribution again.
There was a time during the adoption of e-tickets, I know I keep bringing this up and it probably dates me, but there was a time where e-tickets were called e-tickets, and now when you buy a ticket, it's called ticket. Nobody says e-ticket anymore, and if you look back at the history of e-ticket adoption and where it really took off, it was when IATA issued a mandate for e-tickets. And that's where it really ramped up.
But, Graham, do we need an NDC mandate?
That's a really interesting one. I don't know because I think again, it's just a bit of technology, and I think what we need is maybe a mandate on customer-centric design and not forgetting what the purpose is here, right. It shouldn't be counting the amount of tickets anytime. I mean I did the e-ticket project here at Air Canada too and that left scars on me too like it probably did you.
But NDC is, we're 10 years in now. We're 10 years in and, what did you say it was? 10 percent? We need to start looking as this as a technology that we can embrace and solve some of the problems that are facing us as an industry.
Okay, Jim, I took us off topic there for a second but I want to get back to the question. How will we know when NDC has reached scale from your perspective?
Well, I agree with what everybody's saying. I think for me personally it's when I when I stop getting invited to talk about NDC on panels like this because it won't be interesting. And I think that's really when it'll be like what everybody talked about, it's just synonymous with distribution. It's how we distribute our product in the industry.
That's great. And I know that I said the last question was the last question but I thought up another question. We have such a great panel here to talk about this topic so I’m hesitant to waste it.
And that question is predictions for the next five years of NDC. What do you think is going to be the biggest driver of getting us to scale and why do you think that?
Let's go with Tina first on this one.
Well, I think content.
As carriers start putting unique differentiated content into the NDC channel, that will drive adoption with many of the agencies, and I also think it will be the wake-up call for many carriers who have sat back to get moving on their own strategy so that we're all playing on the same playing field going forward.
And, Tina, just follow up on content. For some carriers, content means adding new content that's specific to NDC. For other carriers it means removing content from the GDS or adding a surcharge or something like that, which can feel a little bit scary. How do you think about the balance between value-added content and taking content away in terms of formulating forward strategies?
Well, I think you have to consider it all. I think you need to understand what's your revenue risk in determining your path forward. But I think that if you can have a little bit of everything in your strategy, you may not want to use too big of a stick or too big of a carrot, but it comes back down to your travel agency profile and the risk that you're willing to take.
Okay, thank you for that.
Graham Wareham. Predictions for the next five years? What's going to be driving the most NDC growth and why do you think it will be the main driver?
Yeah, I think a lot of the problems that are left to solve like interline and consolidation and all these bits and pieces, groups and all that, I think looking at this as an industry problem and creating industry into infrastructure, standards, simply consumable.
Not everyone trying to solve every problem. Because let's look at this as an industry and solve it together. That'll make the biggest difference, and I think the counting to 20 or 25 percent or 30 percent won't be relevant if we start really trying to solve the problems that are facing us as an industry.
So if you think about the 80/20 rule, you know 80 percent of the tickets fall on the simpler side, and some of what you just listed out there with interline and some of the harder scenarios are in the 20 percent.
And so do you think not having a really clear solution for the 20 percent is causing anyone to hold back from solving the 80 percent now?
Depends on where you sit in the ecosystem. It's like it's an agent doesn't necessarily start a transaction knowing where they're going to end up, so if you've broken their process, if you need them to hunt and peck and look and try to find the content all over the place, you probably are going to face resistance of adoption.
It's not so much that it's the 20 percent, it's that it breaks process.
And we have the same thing for the carrier, now you process product one way in the legacy channel and you process product another way in NDC. There needs to be one way for them to look at that, one way for them to rationalize it from revenue optimization right from comparability to channel performance. There needs to be one process for an airline, there needs to be one process for an agency to do what they do best. And these gaps cause grief and resistance and hurdles.
Jim Davidson, what do you think has to be driving the most growth of NDC transactions over the next five years and why do you think that?
Two things. One is I’ll agree with Tina, true content differentiation that helps the airline helps the consumers, helps travel agencies, helps everybody.
And the second is GDS what I call pass-through adoption. Until we get that at scale, and you know people like Mark and his company are working really hard on it, it's not an easy lift, but there's going be a breakthrough this year and that will really skyrocket over the next five years.
That's great, and a perfect tee-up for Mark. I can't imagine a better segue for Mark.
Yeah, thanks, Jim.
Yeah, you're welcome.
Yeah, okay, I'll buy you a beer when we meet.
So I think what's going to happen over the next five years, we've been talking about it and it's going to be a retail transformation. And we're going to see airlines starting through NDC and the other channels, Hopefully we won't call it NDC anymore. And we're already starting to think about what kind of new selling techniques could we bring to the travel sellers. How can the airlines compete better, how can they show their products better? They want better conversion, they want to as much as possible increase their yield.
Everybody wants that, and I think because of these new technologies which are coming, ways of better showing the data, better explain to the customer what it is they can buy, hopefully the whole transformation around personalization. All of this is going to come together. It's going to take a little while to chip away at that last 20 percent, but I think we're now on the move and as an industry we're getting very close to that tipping point.
And I think if we start to do things at the
seller's side where we can be different from some of the other aggregators of the way we want to sell things, help the airlines get their product out in front, travel sellers are going to want to come to us. They're going to want to start using NDC. I see it as all positive over the next five years.
So, Mark, the question that comes to my mind is, Amadeus is clearly out in front when it comes to rolling out NDC across its platform. What is it that makes Amadeus different? I’m not looking for a commercial here, about Amadeus but what is it about omni as a strategy? What is it about how you're built or where you're going?
That I think we were, kind of, decided let's say, to really fully embrace NDC a few years back, and we built the program which I’m kind of head of now, which is looking at both the IT side and the travel seller side. So it gives us the view of both and it's helping us maybe to push in in a single direction. Our top management are firm believers in NDC, so they're allowing us to make the right investments to move forward.
And I’ve just been in a meeting today where we're talking about what we're doing going forward, so again we're in a fortunate position. It's been difficult for everybody the last few years but we're still great believers in NDC as the way forward for the whole industry, actually.
Well, that's great.
I want to thank all of my panelists here for joining me today for this discussion, just an amazing group of people.
An airline with a thought leader in the distribution strategy space, a member of ATPCO who's been involved from the beginning and continues to drive things forward. The same can be said of Jim Davidson at Farelogix, and also Mark at Amadeus taking the ball and running with it.
Thank you for all you do to drive NDC adoption in the industry. Thank you for all you have done and I look forward to seeing what more you accomplish, in the years to come. Thanks, everybody, for joining today.
Thank you very much.
Elevate 2021 is a virtual conference that powers the exchange of ideas for the future of flight shopping.
Co-CEO & President of Distribution, T2RL
Established in 2005, T2RL specializes in complex technology procurement processes, encompassing all airline business models and technology vendors worldwide. Over 60 airlines have chosen T2RL to help define and execute their procurement strategies. Cory joined the T2RL team as Co-CEO in April 2021, and is currently leading the company’s expansion into distribution advisory services.
Cory is a leading travel technology innovator and 20-year veteran of American Airlines, where he led American’s strategies for distribution, travel agency incentives, and programs for corporate customers of all sizes. He has been instrumental in driving global adoption of technologies that open up new possibilities and economic streams for travel companies. Cory was a pioneer in the airline distribution technology which was later codified by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) as its New Distribution Capability (NDC) standard. In part because of his strategic work, consumers can more easily compare airline products and airlines have access to a new, significant competitor to global distribution systems.
Head of Business Development and Partnerships, ATPCO
Graham has over 20 years of experience in the airline industry, including more than five years with ATPCO. His most recent experience as an aviation executive included strategic development, cost/revenue management, and market analysis. Before joining ATPCO, Graham worked as a Senior Director, Distribution and Consumer Direct for Air Canada. In his current role, Graham leads ATPCO's Business Development and Industry team, developing strategic business partnerships and relationships that will help to evolve standards and solutions that help solve evolving industry issues.
Chief Product Officer, Accelya
Jim Davidson is Chief Product Officer at Accelya Group and is responsible for the organization’s commercial and financial solutions portfolio. Prior to its acquisition by Accelya, Jim was CEO of Farelogix, a recognized disruptor and leader in airline distribution and commerce technology. Jim has been immersed in the travel industry for more than 25 years.
A strategic thinker with a passion for innovation, execution, and achievement, Jim is a frequent speaker at industry events on thought-provoking airline distribution and merchandising topics that address the evolving travel market. An acknowledged thought leader, Jim has been twice named among the 25 Most Influential Executives in the Business Travel Industry by Business Travel News.
Jim holds an undergraduate degree in Business Management and a Masters of Science in Education from Alfred University, and an MBA from Western Carolina University.
Head of NDC [X] Program, Amadeus
Mark Ridley is the Head of NDC [X] program, a dedicated program that was set-up across Amadeus—as an IT provider and aggregator—to drive the industrialization and deployment of NDC. Mark has a key role leading the execution of this program focusing on its functional, technical, and deployment elements.
Mark has broad experience across multiple areas of the business. He has managed small, large, local, and global teams over the years. He has a strong product and solutions background after working and managing teams in R&D, product management, airline IT solutions, distribution sales engineering, and portfolio management.
Mark’s experience of translating business needs into viable solutions will be pivotal in driving the development and adoption of NDC forward.
Mark has been with Amadeus for over 30 years, is British, and has lived near Nice, France, since October 1990. Mark speaks English and French, studied clinical biochemistry, and his hobbies are hand-tool woodwork, open-water swimming, cycling, and rugby.
Managing Director, Distribution, Sales Strategy & Alliances, Hawaiian Airlines
Tina is responsible for developing the global distribution strategy at Hawaiian Airlines and manages the commercial relationships with GDSs, OTAs, and other third-party content providers. Most recently, she has taken the Alliances & Airline Partnerships department under her remit and is responsible for developing the business relationships with codeshare and interline partners that help enable Hawaiian to expand its reach to a broader base of customers in domestic and international markets. Tina has over 20 years of experience in the travel industry and has held various key positions in operations, loyalty marketing, and revenue management at Northwest Airlines and Expedia. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of North Dakota and a Juris Doctor degree from William Mitchell College of Law.