Travelport’s global head of new distribution Ian Heywood gives three tips

Until now, sitting back and waiting to see what will happen with Iata’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) has been a fairly sensible policy for most agencies, but not any longer.

The Iata NDC airline ‘leader board’ of 21 airlines have committed to transacting 20% of booking volume through NDC-capable APIs (application programming interfaces) by 2020 and many airlines have set out their intentions to heavily prioritise API bookings in future.

There are about to be some major changes to the way you work. It’s time to make sure you benefit from what NDC offers or you could risk losing out to better-prepared competitors. Here are three tips which provide a good starting point:

Understand NDC’s new rules of engagement

If you change a football match into a rugby match halfway through, there will be some confusion. The only way it can work is if everyone knows the rules of the new game – and it’s the same with NDC.

As bookings will be made in airline systems and airlines themselves will be responsible for creating customer offers, the agent’s role will change profoundly.

Not only do you need access to the new content coming down the NDC API, you also need to know more about your customers so you can return relevant, compelling offers to them.

There are also new rules which affect your relationship with travel suppliers and how this will change. There are new rules on how you access content and how your customers make bookings. And there are new rules about the range and type of offers that will be available.

You need to understand all of these changes and be able to adapt to them to ensure NDC positively impacts your supplier and customer relationships and business as a whole.

Evolve and strengthen your supplier partnerships

To some extent, agencies have been competing on a level playing field for decades, with everyone having access to the same public fares on all routes. With NDC this could change, with airlines favouring agencies which prioritise sales of hard-to-sell fares and ancillaries.

The agencies which do best out of NDC will be those which understand this fundamental change and partner to support airlines in their commercial objectives.

If you can help an airline sell fares on a challenging route when aircraft are half empty, for example, you will be rewarded with access to fares that are highly desirable and profitable at other times of the year. Likewise, if you take airlines’ desires to sell more high-profit ancillaries seriously, that will potentially give you advantages in terms of the high-value content you can access from them.

You can also grow and strengthen your relationships with airlines in the NDC era by sharing the right customer data with them. After all, to create profitable offers, airlines need a full understanding of customers’ needs and preferences – and that is information only you have access to.

Be specific with your searches

One of the major changes with NDC is that just a few fare options will be replaced with a much larger number of offers that include a wide range of fares and ancillaries.

This is great in terms of giving customers more choice, value and relevance, but it can increase complexity in the search process and make bookings more time-consuming.

The trick here is to be highly specific in searches for NDC content. This will save agents’ time and deliver more-relevant results for customers. And that means more sales.

NDC is finally becoming a reality. Indeed, agencies should start taking proactive measures to capitalise on the opportunities it presents. Otherwise, they may risk losing out to competitors as we enter this new era.

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