British Airways’ sales via NDC are now “way above” 20% in the UK market, the airline’s new head of distribution has revealed.
Speaking on a panel at the Business Travel Show in London, Rogier van Enk, who recently joined from Finnair, said further developments would be revealed by the end of March.
The airline will expand long-haul price points across more routes and the lowest three short-haul Basic inventories will only be available through NDC and direct channels for journeys starting in the UK.
He promised TMCs “hundreds of thousands of pounds of savings”.
However, he warned: “We will push the market a lot by removing some content from the GDS.”
He said NDC was completing a 20-year journey that had seen paper tickets replaced by e-ticketing – a similar system but done electronically. “All we did was put a paper process into a computer system and assume it worked.”
Van Enk said BA now sold fares as low as £20 to compete with low-cost carriers and needed to cut distribution costs. “If we need to pay middleman fees, these flights become completely unprofitable. In order to make that pay we have had to make a change, we can’t have unprofitable content in the market.”
Robin Smith, Click Travel chief product engineer said 90% of the TMC’s BA bookings were through NDC.
“This model is used across the whole industry, it’s not just unique to flights. We’ve been doing it for years across hotels, across rail.”
However, Nicola Ping, Flight Centre’s air content and distribution manager, said the range of carriers the agency worked with and its geographical spread meant NDC agreements were not the only distribution tool for it.
“We have a different customer base; ours is not just UK. We could never do a direct connect for every single airline. The GDS offers a huge amount for our consultants.”
She said GDSs had capabilities beyond distribution NDC could not offer. “If all flights to China are cancelled, we have to re-accommodate passengers. We have to phone every single one; whereas we can handle that through the GDS.”
Panellists agreed more content needed to be added to NDC channels.
Ann Dery, global travel director at financial information specialist S&P Global, said: “Our travellers mostly don’t need basic fares, they need flexibility, so we’ve turned off the NDC flow.
“A lot of progress has been made on the leisure side; hopefully, I think in two to four years that progress will reach the corporate side. Right now, the quality, the service, the ticketing, is not in place.”