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6 Questions to Ask Your TMC About How They Support NDC

March 07, 2023
By Andrew Sheivachman
Categories Travel Management

IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) is a hot topic in corporate travel once again with American Airlines set to make 40% of its fares unbookable GDS EDIFACT-based booking channels in April.

While many travel management companies (TMCs) and online booking tool (OBT) providers claim to support NDC, the depth of their NDC capabilities can vary considerably. In some cases, NDC capabilities may be limited to simply displaying a fare without the ability to book, whereas others might be able to support end-to-end traveler journeys including booking, post-ticketing changes, analytics, and servicing. 

Here are six questions to ask your TMC and OBT providers about their level of support for NDC.

Q1. Do you support self-service bookings for American Airlines NDC fares?

If your TMC is not able to both view and book American NDC content, your travelers will be missing out on a significant portion of U.S. and international airfare inventory. And if booking isn’t available on a self-service basis, you’re likely to incur significant offline service fees when booking through a travel agent.

Many TMCs claim they are ready to support booking American Airlines content in the future, but the reality is that a basic NDC connection or connection using a third-party may not support all the features and functionality your program needs. 

American Airlines, for instance, has opened a new phone service line for travel agents to perform post-ticketing servicing on NDC-based bookings. The typical fee for a traveler calling the airline to change a booking is $50.

If NDC content is available through an intermediary like TravelFusion, there may also be additional fees associated with booking and servicing NDC content, which can increase the cost of flights for your travelers. Choosing a partner with full NDC connectivity ensures you get the widest array of available flights at the best prices.

Q2. Do you provide access to unbiased NDC content from airlines, with both NDC and non-NDC GDS fares available side-by-side in your shopping display?

Most airline bookings today happen through a Global Distribution System (GDS) using an archaic data communication standard called EDIFACT that was created in the 1980s. GDSs have been slow to adopt NDC, and most are working hard to get basic functionality in place in time for the April deadline that American Airlines has set to make a significant portion of their content unbookable in EDIFACT-based distribution channels. 

Many TMCs and OBTs are waiting for GDSs to finish building critical functionality to support NDC. In addition, TMCs and OBTs may delay implementing NDC or limit the amount of NDC content they display in search results due to economic reasons.

When TMCs book trips through a GDS, they receive commissions and other incentive payments. If a TMC receives lower commissions on NDC fares, TMCs and OBT providers may choose to hide NDC fares or display them in a biased fashion at the end of their search results.

Many booking tools also display either NDC fares or GDS fares, making it difficult for travelers to compare fares side by side and select the best option for their trip. 

Q3. Do you support self-service post-ticketing changes through NDC?

Even if a TMC says they have access to NDC content through their booking tool or GDS, it’s important to understand whether the change, exchange, and cancellation process are automated and available on a self-service basis. With a robust NDC connection, a traveler can change their seats, Known Traveler Number, redress number, loyalty program number, and more.

If your TMC has to manually perform these post-ticketing functions, you may be on the hook for additional fees.

A traveler will also have to spend time contacting an agent to make a change, instead of being able to make the change themselves instantly. This can lead to significant productivity losses and an inability to navigate travel disruptions quickly. 

Q4. Are your agents and travelers using the same platform, so NDC bookings are serviceable?

Perhaps the most overlooked element of a TMC’s NDC integration is support of seamless servicing once a flight has been booked.

Your TMC’s agents might not be able to support NDC ticket changes, cancellations, or other post-ticketing tasks even if these capabilities are available through your OBT if they are using different technology.  

If your TMC’s agents aren’t using the same technology as your travelers, they might not be able to support NDC bookings, flight changes, cancellations, or other post-ticketing changes even if these capabilities are available through your OBT.  

Q5. Does your platform provide integrated real-time reporting with data from both legacy and NDC-based bookings?

It’s important to receive real-time updates and insights into the state of your travel program. You should be aware of how NDC-based bookings flow into your reporting and how often that data is updated based on new bookings and changes made to existing bookings. Your TMC may not be able to easily integrate data from NDC bookings and EDIFACT bookings, resulting in delays to receive reports and additional fees for processing data. 

Q6. Do you support dynamic bundles, continuous pricing, and loyalty-based personalization?

Not all platforms that say they support NDC are built to evolve in tandem with the travel industry. The NDC standard has evolved over the last decade, meaning platforms with a basic integration may not be able to provide the most powerful new innovations to their partners.

Platforms with the deepest NDC integrations allow for the creation of dynamic bundles for your travelers, continuous pricing for airfares, and the ability for airlines to provide seat choices and amenities based on a traveler’s status with the airline.

It’s worth asking whether your TMC partner’s systems have the ability to deploy these innovations for your program to ensure the seamless evolution and improvement of your travel program.

Spotnana’s approach to NDC

Spotnana has developed new, modern infrastructure for the travel industry that has been designed from the ground up to support content from any source. We have developed a direct NDC integration with American Airlines that supports the full traveler journey including booking, self-service post-ticketing changes, analytics, and real-time reporting. NDC integrations with other top airlines are currently in development.

To learn more about how Spotnana’s industry-leading NDC connection with American Airlines can simplify your travel program, request a demo today.