Amadeus used this week’s Travel Technology Europe and Business Travel Show to launch NDC-X - a fresh attempt to make NDC more ”exciting”.
Gianni Pisanello, who has held a variety of leadership roles within Amadeus’s airlines business, has launched the “NDC-X” programme.
NDC - or New Distribution Capability - was created by Iata and is an XML-based data transmission standard that holds huge promise for the travel industry. It is designed to enable travel companies – from airlines to travel agencies – to evolve travel distribution and merchandising.
"People ask ‘what’s the X for!’ and that’s the question we want them to ask"
Pisanello, who has worked at Amadeus for 12 years, and on NDC for four years, told TTG that the new tagline was a bid to re-engage the industry. “We decided to call it NDC-X as there is an analogy with SpaceX [the aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company founded by Elon Musk].
“It’s just a protocol - so we’re now thinking about the exciting stuff coming up for airlines and agencies. And also we don’t know what’s coming next. It’s like when Facebook started. We didn’t know what would happen next, we didn’t realise it would be social media.
“NDC-X is Amadeus’s term, we’re differentiating ourselves from the rest of the industry. The real topic is the digitisation of the travel industry. It’s all being opened up and NDC is one part of the digital revolution.”
In the future, Pisanello envisages NDC-X will be an easier way to add flexibility. “Now airlines can promote offers on the fly. In 15 minutes they can test a new package, and become more sophisticated. They’re already doing it on their own website, but now they can do it with partners. From a travel agency point of view, airlines will be competing more.”
Airlines invest heavily in fleets, seats and cabins in a bid to differentiate their product, and overall NDC will allow more “rich content”, such as images and videos, to be displayed to travel bookers online. Currently, Pisanello argued, airlines are not always able to present what they have across indirect channels due to a lack of flexibility.
"The real topic is the digitisation of the travel industry. It’s all being opened up and NDC is one part of the digital revolution."
Personalisation is another benefit, with airlines able to promote relevant packages. For example, if someone is recognised as previously having bought family holidays online, extras such as airpot fast-track may be bundled into that airline’s promotional package.
He also dismissed fears that NDC will lead to lack of transparency. “You always have to have a public fare - so it’s already cheap as you’re competing. What will happen is dynamic pricing, in real time."
However, he warned that airlines publishing too much rich content can harm conversion rates.
Pisanello also denied that a new name such as NDC-X would complicate matters further. “It’s not confusing,” he told TTG. “People ask ‘what’s the X for!’ and that’s the question we want them to ask.”
Meanwhile, he warned that one issue was that not all airlines use the same version of the standard, and that NDC was not yet "universal". "There are different variations so transparency is difficult. Some airlines are using older standards 17.1 [the standard created in the first half of 2017]. Some airlines are using version 15.2. It’s evolving each year, from basic to robust. Airlines need 17.2, as it has the right features for indirect distribution."
Decius Valmorbida, senior vice-president, Travel Channels, Amadeus, added: “The NDC-X programme is a strategic priority for Amadeus. Our aim is to create better journeys for travellers through the best use of technology, and this transversal program will work with our travel seller and airline customers to deliver just that. We are dedicating the right resources and have appointed a strong leader with a proven track-record in the industry to drive its success.”