Amadeus stresses agent education amid NDC revolution

NDC is fast becoming a reality as industry adoption of the new standard becomes more widespread, although there remains work to be done to educate agents in understanding and adopting the standard.

Earlier this month, Amex GBT joined the Amadeus’ NDC-X programme to help test and familiarise itself with the new NDC flow of “shop, book, pay”. Gianni Pisanello, global head of Amadeus NDC X programme, said: “We are laying down NDC fundamentals for more airlines and agencies to use.”

Amadeus is on track in progressing with industrialisation of the standard, targeting GUI-readiness by mid-2019, before NDC deployment by 2020, Pisanello shared.

This means travel agents can look forward to a streamlined search, book, pay and service function by next year.

Gianni: on track to making NDC a reality by 2020

For now however, it is still very much about education from a travel agent standpoint. “At the immediate moment, travel agents should be informing themselves – figure out what the standards look like, what (the GDSs are doing with regard to NDC), and how they will deploy it,” said Pisanello.

Shedding light on why it may be worthwhile for agencies to consider NDC –without having to upend existing systems – he said: “Travel agencies are used to fast commands, which makes (the old way of booking) productive for those used to (the method). But for a new (entrant) who isn’t familiar with the commands, NDC is simpler to pick up, as it presents what you would typically find on a website – it’s a matter of search-click-pay.

“Overall NDC works for recruiting people not trained in cryptic commands, while being (slower) than what a pro-user of the command structure is used to. We plan to marry both worlds. “

Pisanello observes that in general, adoption of the standard tends to be slower in Asia-Pacific, although the region is likely to follow the lead of Europe and the US.

Pisanello said: “It’s about market dynamics. Asia’s travel industry is booming, and there is so much to take care of in terms of moving with that growth. In lower-growth markets such as in the US and Europe, there are more opportunities to think about further optimisation. It becomes more a question of priority (than about whether it is fruitful to advance with NDC).

“But once the best practices come through from Europe and the US, people in Asia will think about how they can apply.”

In the NDC revolution, Amadeus sees its role as “removing complexity” for travel agencies and airlines through providing technology solutions – but in the nearer term it is also doing its part to move travel agents forward through education. Last year, it conducted roadshows, both to educate industry players and mine feedback on travel agency needs for solutions design.

More recently, it launched an educational series on its website and worked with IATA on conferences, in addition to disseminating information through NDC champions in the travel agency sphere.

Pisanello said Amadeus is surprisingly on track in its timeline, “an unusual (feat) in the technology world”, but stressed that the NDC revolution was never cut out to be a quick change.

“Within the broader context, the current infrastructure took up to 40 years of optimising for ideas and features (year after year). We are going through a similar process with NDC,” he said.

Beyond the ease of search-book-pay-service lie more complex functions including multi-sector, multi-stop flights and refunds processing. But with “85 per cent of bookings being for point-to-point flights”, Amadeus has its eyes set on the immediate agenda.

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