Leading through NDC: 10 takeaways from GBTA 2023




New Distribution Capability (NDC), a standard created by IATA to streamline and enhance the airline booking process, has been a significant point of contention for many in the business travel industry. 

Though there are still issues to be settled, progress is being made. GBTA Convention 2023 served as a crucial platform for NDC discussions, and the insights garnered there provide a roadmap for what lies ahead.

Here are the top 10 insights about NDC from GBTA 2023 that you can't afford to overlook:

1. Hurdles to NDC adoption

Despite its promise to streamline the way airlines distribute airfares and ancillary products, NDC has struggled to gain traction. 

In the GBTA Convention session "C-Suite Conversation on NDC – From Turbulence to Transformation", Charlene Leiss, President, Americas, Flight Centre Travel Group, compared the current perception of NDC among corporations to that of basic economy fares. They may be cost-effective at surface level, but they lack the amenities and flexibility that business travellers need. 

Slow adoption serves as a sign that NDC stakeholders still have work to do, but progress is being made, as we'll see throughout this post.

2. User experience matters

One primary bottleneck for NDC adoption is user experience. The most important driver for NDC standardisation and adoption is the ultimate benefit to corporate travel buyers and their travellers. 

Current NDC bookings tend to lack the full service capabilities associated with traditional booking processes. Corporate travellers and travel buyers expect flexibility and ease in the booking experience — something NDC will need to deliver.

3. Standardisation is key

For NDC to succeed, certain standards must be adhered to. Though NDC is a framework that promotes a standard booking process, airlines, GDS, and OBTs have implemented these standards in varying ways. Standardisation is needed to create a simplified and consistent experience for corporate travellers and travel buyers.

4. Servicing can be labour-intensive

Traditional booking systems have largely automated the servicing process. NDC bookings largely still require manual intervention, requiring additional resources to manage bookings. Servicing NDC bookings must be as streamlined as traditional GDS-based bookings for success.

5. Personalisation is the future

NDC holds the promise of tailored offerings, aiming to revolutionise the industry with personalised bundles and ancillary options. Bundles need to be flexible, with varying, personalised options available to the traveller, to the corporation, and to the TMC. Solving for this necessity will go a long way toward the adoption of the NDC standard among corporations.

6. Collaborative pilots show promise

Florian Mueller, Global Air Practice Lead, FCM Consulting, moderated a panel at GBTA Convention 2023 called "Taking NDC from Theory into Practice". The panel highlighted an NDC pilot programme involving Bechtel, FCM Travel, SAP Concur, and United Airlines. It provided a case study in how NDC can really work when stakeholders communicate and collaborate around a common goal. 

The pilot has focused on addressing key concerns such as duty of care and invoicing. Though still underway, the pilot has delivered tangible and promising achievements, including the bundling of airfares with ancillary products like Wi-Fi and checked bags. 

7. Consider small-scale pilots

NDC is a complex landscape with many variables. Small trials can help corporate travel managers understand how NDC fits within their existing processes and what value it might offer. Engaging in a pilot allows a company to identify specific challenges and opportunities. A trial run can help in not just assessing technological compatibility but in understanding needed organisational changes for full scale implementation.

8. Change management is critical

Organisational readiness will play a huge role in successful adoption of NDC. Effective change management isn't a solo endeavour, and involves fostering a collaborative environment between TMCs, distribution tools, airlines, and other relevant parties to resolve issues. Without this alignment, the risk of encountering obstacles and resistance increases.

9. Stay informed

Though the NDC process seems to be moving at a snail's pace, the conversation around this topic and its implications is moving quite quickly. Staying informed involves not just reading updates like this one, but also actively participating in industry events, and maintaining active communication with your TMC partner. 

10. It's about collaboration

The future of NDC lies in collaboration. Travel managers should collaborate closely with airlines, TMCs, and travel distribution vendors. Collaborative efforts can resolve key issues and ultimately make NDC a viable, beneficial standard.

Take action

Despite its challenges, NDC has the potential to deliver significant value over time. The key lies in understanding its current limitations, staying educated on new developments, and fostering collaborative efforts with all stakeholders to improve the system. 

Your travel management company should be equipped to support NDC content and manage the processes required. FCM has the expertise and technology in place to manage the transition to NDC the right way.

Get in touch

Learn how FCM can help you navigate the complexities of NDC and help you unlock its full potential.


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