Corporate travel buyers oppose airlines restricting fares in GDS

A survey of corporate travel buyers and intermediaries by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) has revealed the extent of disquiet at airlines pushing rapid adoption of new distribution capability (NDC) technology.

Half the respondents in a GBTA survey (47%) opposed American Airlines’ removal of more than 40% of its fares from traditional GDSs at the beginning of April, with full content only available through NDC channels despite concerns that the technology is not ready.

Three out of five corporate travel buyers (60%) were opposed, with opposition highest in North America where fewer than one third (29%) of respondents expressed support for NDC’s introduction compared with 44% in Europe.

More than half of travel buyers (53%) accused some airlines of rolling out NDC too quickly without giving intermediaries enough time to develop the technology and processes to make it work.

More: Faremine links with Amadeus to bring British Airways NDC fares to trade

This rose to 59% in North America but was 42% in Europe where airlines have appeared more ready to work with major travel management companies (TMCs) and GDSs since Lufthansa led the way in imposing surcharges on GDS bookings in 2015 to drive NDC take-up.

Just under one third of buyers in the survey (29%) felt intermediaries should be ready to service NDC bookings, although this rose to 49% in Europe compared with 23% in North America.

GBTA found travel buyers split on the impact of NDC. One-third (36%) said their corporate travel programme had been negatively impacted by airlines implementing NDC, 29% said programmes had not been affected and 28% were unaware of any NDC impact. However, only 6% registered a positive impact from NDC, despite the claimed benefits for travellers.

NDC technology is aimed at enabling Amazon-style, personalised retailing of flights and airline ancillaries via third-party distributors.

However, half the buyers surveyed by GBTA (48%) had not begun to implement NDC, 14% reported “challenges” with the implementation process and 25% said it was too early to assess the implementation. Only 4% reported no difficulties. Six out of 10 buyers (61%) had no budget to meet the costs of NDC implementation.

Eight out of 10 corporate buyers (81%) said they needed more information on NDC. Half the buyers (50%) did not feel their TMC shared sufficient information on NDC or their plans for implementation.

More than one third (36%) of travel intermediaries in the survey – including TMCs, GDSs and online-booking tool (OBT) providers – reported challenges implementing NDC ranging from “some” to “many”.

The US travel advisors’ association Asta has called for an anti-trust investigation of American Airlines, warning of “substantially higher air ticket prices” and urging members to submit details of the price disparities between NDC and non-NDC channels (Travel Weekly, April 13). The UK Institute of Travel Management has noted “a deluge of complaints from travellers about fares being visible but not bookable”.

The GBTA survey, carried out on April 10-21, drew more than 800 responses.

More: Faremine links with Amadeus to bring British Airways NDC fares to trade

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