Interview with Bruno Murray, VP of Commercial Operations

American Express Global Business Travel (Amex GBT) provides software and services to nearly 20,000 clients around the world, including organizations of all sizes and types – and millions of travelers. A key part of this is Amex GBT’s commitment to providing comprehensive access to content, in customers’ preferred channels.

As airlines continue to make changes to their fare distribution strategies, including rolling out New Distribution Capability (NDC) content, we are particularly mindful of the impact on our customers from these changes – and our priority is advocating for those customers. Our focus is on making NDC sustainable for the long term, and work for everyone. With that in mind, in this article we’re defining “customer” broadly to include both our clients and their employees who engage with our products and services.

Amex GBT is fully committed to bringing NDC content to customers: in the past year we have invested more than $10 million in marketplace expansion of NDC content, and thousands of our clients have access to NDC fares through our proprietary booking platforms (Amex GBT Neo and Egencia) and via offline channels.

To find out more, we sat down with Bruno Murray, Vice President of Commercial Operations, to hear about how Amex GBT is championing the customer experience through changes in the airline distribution ecosystem.

What are the clients asking about NDC? What are their priorities?

Clients want to know how changes in the distribution landscape will impact their travel programs and their employees. They want to be confident they’re accessing a marketplace where they can compare the most comprehensive and competitive content. But at the same time, they prioritize maintaining and strengthening the integrity of their travel programs – including flexibility, after-sales support, seamless experiences for their travelers, transaction data visibility, reporting and analysis.

Duty of care remains a top priority for our clients so it’s important for employees to still book within their preferred corporate channels. Our clients need to know where their traveling employees are, and we have to be able to support and service bookings if plans change due to unexpected events. It’s our responsibility to make sure that disruption is managed properly, whether a client is booking an NDC fare or an EDIFACT fare. A selection of NDC fares today cannot be changed or cancelled in the same way that EDIFACT fares can be, so it’s something we’ve had to solve for.

In order to support NDC fares, we’re integrating NDC content into all servicing channels including online, offline, messaging, and more. Approximately 27% of travel bookings are refunded or exchanged by our travel counselors, so the servicing component is really important.1

So, as we provide NDC fares to more and more corporate clients, we think about how to service those bookings, to meet all their needs.

What steps are Amex GBT taking to make sure it can service NDC fares and provide a great experience?

For the last few years, we have been working very closely with the airlines making the biggest changes in their distribution models, with rigorous testing, running pilots, pinpointing any gaps and providing feedback so they can adapt where necessary. As a rule, the airlines welcome the feedback we provide, since it’s representative of the many clients and travelers we serve.

In 2023, we developed a framework known as the Minimum Marketable Product (MMP) – it’s a set of use cases to help make sure NDC functionality and standards meet our clients’ varied requirements. It’s allowed us to have very structured and productive conversations with airlines, with a majority adopting our key customer requirements to help develop their connectivity and APIs. To help support the industry and drive progress, we made the MMP framework freely available to everyone.  We have also scaled our offline servicing capabilities, which has included training over 2,000 travel counselors and consultants across the US and EMEA to be able to book and service NDC content.

As a result of all this investment and cross-industry collaboration, thousands of our clients are already booking NDC fares on Amex GBT’s Neo and Egencia booking platforms and offline by phone, chat and email.

And we’re constantly expanding our NDC pilot programs, testing NDC capabilities with airlines in multiple countries. As a result, NDC deployment to our customers continues to grow with new content coming online all the time. To give one recent example, in March we made Air France-KLM NDC fares available to all of our customers in France and the Netherlands on the Amex GBT Egencia booking platform. And you’ll continue to see NDC content enabled across more airlines, in more countries, and to more and more customers globally over the next few weeks and months.

Why is servicing and experience so important in business travel particularly?

Business travel is very different from consumer travel. Within business travel there are multiple stakeholders.

Of course, the traveler – and their end-to-end experience, from search and book to the travel journey, is all very important. It’s our first priority for each booking, and to maintain and enhance this, we extensively monitor traveler feedback via surveys and satisfaction metrics.

But the relationship with the corporate client is also paramount. Especially since it is the corporate client whose money is being spent. Each corporation has their own policies, strategies around duty of care, their own commercial agreements, reporting – all this needs to be underpinned with robust policies, management, and data.

Should customers be confident in Amex GBT’s ability to offer NDC content?

Absolutely! Thanks to our highly skilled team, we’re fully prepared for NDC content acceleration in 2024 and beyond. We’re continuing to deploy a multimillion-dollar investment strategy in modern retailing and distribution. This includes a large, dedicated tech R&D team to bring NDC fares into our marketplace and channels.

Our clients will start receiving more information about NDC content availability in the coming weeks and months.

If you’re interested in learning more about Amex GBT’s transformation journey to enable NDC content globally, visit our dedicated NDC page here.

1 Amex GBT Internal Reporting, FY 2023. Amex GBT Select clients only. All POS globally. Tickets booked includes both online and offline bookings. Excludes self-serve exchanges and refunds performed via online booking tool. Excludes auto-rebookings and refunds.