Cruise Planners December LB 2017

NDC – A Travel Industry Revolution! An Interview with Shelly Younger at ARC…

 ArticlesJoanieHeadShot                       Shelly_Younger.jpg

Joanie Ogg, CTC, MCC                              Shelly Younger
HomeBasedTravelAgent.com                  Manager, Settlement Services, ARC

Joanie: New Distribution Capability (NDC) is a hot topic today in the travel industry. Many have heard about it, few really know what it is … or what its implications are. To help us gain better understanding of NDC, I recently sat down with Shelly Younger, ARC’s manager of settlement services, who participates in IATA’s NDC Working Group and has spoken at various conferences about NDC. Shelly, can you talk a little about how and why NDC evolved?

Shelly:  Sure, Joanie. It’s important to understand background, so before I answer that question, I’m going to assume that most people reading this article don’t know much—if anything—about NDC. At its simplest definition: NDC allows for enhanced communication between the airlines, agents and technology companies. It is an IATA-led initiative that focuses on creating one set of communication standards to support three initiatives: product differentiation, customized offerings and rich content. Airlines want customers to look at the entire product, not just price and schedule. Like other retailers, the ability to know who is shopping and provide a customized offer is more important than ever. Having a single set of standards is important! While not the perfect example, imagine having to buy and manage different computers depending on which web site you visited. That would become expensive and cumbersome. Some of the same principles apply here. More importantly, we get to add another acronym to our industry lexicon.

Joanie:  Why is NDC such a big deal, or is it even a big deal?

Shelly:  “It depends.” This was my famous quote at ARC’s 2014 TravelConnect conference. As with most technology, NDC is going to mean different things to each airline. It will depend on their agency distribution strategy, how ancillary services fit into their product and where they are in terms of their technology lifecycle. NDC is not a requirement, so if an airline decides to adopt NDC, the impact to the agency will depend on when, how and to what level they will adopt NDC. I loosely compare this to mobile phones. Ten people can have the same mobile phone technology, but each of those people uses their phone differently.

Joanie:  What is the real added value for agents, travel managers and customers?

Shelly:  NDC has the potential to move the agency channel to be on par with carrier websites, giving agencies the chance to better serve clients. Agents would have access to offer customers packages that include ancillary services, and if the airline has developed Electronic Miscellaneous Documents (EMD), the reporting and settlement of the transaction is more efficient for the agency, travel manager and customer.

Joanie: Will it benefit smaller travel agencies?

Shelly:  If the agency issues tickets with an airline and Global Distribution System (GDS) that have implemented some or all of the NDC technology, the benefits could be access to offers that might only be available through carriers’ websites, the ability to provide ancillary services at the time of ticketing and images that show what is part of the offer. Images are very powerful, as most online retailers understand. NDC supports pictures and detailed descriptions with offers.  

Joanie:  How quickly will airlines move to NDC?

Shelly:  Again, depending on the airline’s decision to implement some or all of the NDC standards, the move could be months or years. An example of this is United and Amadeus. They recently implemented the ability for an agency to sell premium economy seating using one of the NDC standards. Other carriers that consider using a larger portion of the NDC standards will most likely need longer to implement. As you can see, I like examples. If I decide to cook something that requires 20 ingredients, as opposed to a dish that has five ingredients, the cost, time and most likely taste of the dish will vary greatly. By the way, anyone who knows me is laughing right now, since I barely know where the stove is in my house.

Joanie:  There are some concerns around NDC including privacy and data. Can you talk about that a little?

Shelly:  Okay, I have to use another example for this one. Today, I can visit an airline or agency’s website (or call an agency) and search for travel options.  I don’t have to log into their website to search or even issue a ticket. If I want to log in to their website, I can. If I do that, they have my frequent flyer information, my address, my phone number and my travel history. Assuming they have some level of sophistication, the airline or agency can utilize my data and provide me different options than if I had made the request as an anonymous traveler. The airline or agency may know I have an elite status, so I don’t have to pay for bags or seat upgrades. The same applies with NDC. Anonymous shopping does not go away. The passenger can provide as much or as little information as they want.

Joanie:  How can our agents find out more about NDC?

Shelly:  There are a number of resources available including ARC’s NDC and You paper. Agents can also visit IATA’s website to learn more about the standards, pilots and other resources.

Joanie:  Shelly, can you talk a little about how and why NDC evolved?

Shelly:  Sure, Joanie. It’s important to understand background, so before I answer that question, I’m going to assume that most people reading this article don’t know much—if anything—about NDC. At its simplest definition: NDC allows for enhanced communication between the airlines, agents and technology companies. It is an IATA-led initiative that focuses on creating one set of communication standards to support three initiatives: product differentiation, customized offerings and rich content. Airlines want customers to look at the entire product, not just price and schedule. Like other retailers, the ability to know who is shopping and provide a customized offer is more important than ever. Having a single set of standards is important! While not the perfect example, imagine having to buy and manage different computers depending on which web site you visited. That would become expensive and cumbersome. Some of the same principles apply here. More importantly, we get to add another acronym to our industry lexicon.

Joanie:  Why is NDC such a big deal, or is it even a big deal?

Shelly:  “It depends.” This was my famous quote at ARC’s 2014 TravelConnect conference. As with most technology, NDC is going to mean different things to each airline. It will depend on their agency distribution strategy, how ancillary services fit into their product and where they are in terms of their technology lifecycle. NDC is not a requirement, so if an airline decides to adopt NDC, the impact to the agency will depend on when, how and to what level they will adopt NDC. I loosely compare this to mobile phones. Ten people can have the same mobile phone technology, but each of those people uses their phone differently.

Joanie:  What is the real added value for agents, travel managers and customers?

Shelly:  NDC has the potential to move the agency channel to be on par with carrier websites, giving agencies the chance to better serve clients. Agents would have access to offer customers packages that include ancillary services, and if the airline has developed Electronic Miscellaneous Documents (EMD), the reporting and settlement of the transaction is more efficient for the agency, travel manager and customer.

Joanie: Will it benefit smaller travel agencies?

Shelly:  If the agency issues tickets with an airline and Global Distribution System (GDS) that have implemented some or all of the NDC technology, the benefits could be access to offers that might only be available through carriers’ websites, the ability to provide ancillary services at the time of ticketing and images that show what is part of the offer. Images are very powerful, as most online retailers understand. NDC supports pictures and detailed descriptions with offers.

Joanie:  How quickly will airlines move to NDC?

Shelly:  Again, depending on the airline’s decision to implement some or all of the NDC standards, the move could be months or years. An example of this is United and Amadeus. They recently implemented the ability for an agency to sell premium economy seating using one of the NDC standards. Other carriers that consider using a larger portion of the NDC standards will most likely need longer to implement. As you can see, I like examples. If I decide to cook something that requires 20 ingredients, as opposed to a dish that has five ingredients, the cost, time and most likely taste of the dish will vary greatly. By the way, anyone who knows me is laughing right now, since I barely know where the stove is in my house.

Joanie:  There are some concerns around NDC including privacy and data. Can you talk about that a little?

Shelly:  Okay, I have to use another example for this one. Today, I can visit an airline or agency’s website (or call an agency) and search for travel options.  I don’t have to log into their website to search or even issue a ticket. If I want to log in to their website, I can. If I do that, they have my frequent flyer information, my address, my phone number and my travel history. Assuming they have some level of sophistication, the airline or agency can utilize my data and provide me different options than if I had made the request as an anonymous traveler. The airline or agency may know I have an elite status, so I don’t have to pay for bags or seat upgrades. The same applies with NDC. Anonymous shopping does not go away. The passenger can provide as much or as little information as they want.

Joanie:  How can our agents find out more about NDC?

Shelly:  There are a number of resources available including ARC’s NDC and You paper. Agents can also visit IATA’s website to learn more about the standards, pilots and other resources.