You may be hearing a lot of buzz around New Distribution Capability (NDC). So, what is it, and what are we doing about it? Some airlines are changing how they market and sell their inventory with NDC-sourced content, a new standard for data exchange between airlines and their indirect channels. This standard was initially designed for enhanced product merchandising and retailing for leisure travel. However, leisure travelers have very different needs than business travelers.

Our goal at American Express Global Business Travel (Amex GBT) is to help all parties successfully manage this change for the good of our customers. As the world’s leading travel management company (TMC), with solid partnerships and valued business travel customers, we are thought leaders in responding to the changing distribution environment. We’re focused on effectively bringing NDC-sourced content to our customers while maintaining our long-standing business partner marketplace. Our marketplace allows us to deliver on the same high level of service and duty of care standards that our clients have come to expect from Amex GBT.

However, we can’t do this alone. Transforming air distribution with NDC is a complex endeavor involving the entire travel ecosystem. Without a doubt, alignment is needed for NDC channels to deliver content in a way that fully meets the requirements of business travelers. To help develop the robust NDC connections needed for business travel, we’ve created the Minimum Marketable Product (MMP) framework, and we’re making it available to all, through public, open channels.1 This new framework is based on learnings from early deployments of NDC-sourced content and shows 162 use cases that airlines, global distribution systems, and online booking tools need to fulfill before bringing NDC content into the Amex GBT marketplace.

Representing our clients’ interests

Our clients are front and center. From traveler well-being to disruption assistance, there are many elements of a managed travel program that are important to our clients. Our solutions must support travelers’ needs and at the same time meet the high standards of service that our customers expect. We’ve developed the MMP framework with this in mind. It’s a list of criteria based on customer feedback along with operating and service requirements for NDC-sourced content that align with the specific needs of our clients. From this research, we’ve found service gaps that need be addressed before NDC-sourced content is acceptable in a full-service business travel marketplace.

We discovered business travel gaps that could lead to increased ticket costs, traveler friction, and duty of care challenges for our clients. There are issues related to ticket changes and exchanges, travel credits, and data processing requirements, among other servicing complications. We’ve also encountered booking complications, such as the inability to conduct a search by flight schedule, book one-way fares, mix restricted outbound with flexible inbound fares, and employ pre-trip approval tools.

Our list of criteria works to address these service gaps.

We’re focused on delivering content in a way that will be scalable across the globe.  Although NDC has been billed as a standard, the 80+ airlines (out of more than 350 IATA airlines) offering NDC content are not implementing it in a standardized way.

Airlines who launch NDC before the MMP framework is met run the risk of dissatisfied customers due to the inability to perform tasks such as servicing and modifying reservations after ticketing or carrying out duty of care processes.

When considering new proposals for NDC content from airlines, we ask that it meets our functionality must-haves. Here’s a snapshot of some challenges that the MMP framework will address:

  • Ability to clearly present NDC and non-NDC content together from different airlines to let the traveler easily compare all offers and book the best policy-compliant flight and price combination.
  • Ability to track and use unused NDC tickets and flight credits for future NDC bookings and use a non-NDC credit towards an NDC booking.
  • Efficient servicing (book, modify, cancel, reporting, etc.) of ancillaries within booking workflow or without having to contact the airline directly.

What’s Next?

The MMP framework is the foundation for a testing and implementation process needed for each airline. We’ve made – and continue to make –strides in our business partnerships. These include our latest customer pilots for online booking of Air France and KLM – NDC content across our proprietary solutions, Neo and Egencia. The content will be enabled through Amadeus in a way that fully meets the MMP framework and the requirements of corporate clients.

This is only the beginning. The rollout of NDC content has proven to be a complex, multi-year process involving many dependencies across multiple stakeholders – including those from the airlines, travel management companies, online booking tool providers, and GDSs. The work entails building out servicing, data structure, business processes, and content displays to match the established airline content we receive today. There needs to be comprehensive testing and development by all parties to make sure the capabilities and functionalities that have been distributed through the existing channels have been replicated successfully.

We’ve been busy putting in the work for our clients and the business travel industry. We are now making the MMP framework available to all, through public, open channels. We believe that using the Amex GBT MMP framework in customer pilots can improve the rollout of NDC content in the business travel marketplace.

If you wish to review what we believe is necessary to make NDC-sourced content ready for business travel, please check out our MMP framework that we’ve shared with industry partners. For more information about our progress on NDC-sourced content from Air France and KLM, see our press release here.

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