The advent of NDC may help airlines unlock a bigger customer base for their premium products – a segment that has fallen behind in a metasearch realm dominated by the lowest-fare-first approach, say industry names.
To secure mass demand, the majority of online travel aggregators and agencies are focused on pushing out the lowest air fares, offering little to no visibility for premium bundles.
This discrepancy has done a “tragic” disservice to airlines and the sizeable segment of customers that actually would pay for premium seats and services, said Jeff Lobl, managing director of global distribution for Delta Air Lines, at the recent STX 2019 in Las Vegas.
He lamented: “We know there are customers who prefer premium products – we see overwhelming numbers on our direct channels – but 99 per cent of agencies are dominated by the practice of showing the lowest fare first.
“But customers don’t always want that. The lowest fare is no longer as attractive a product as before, and offers can now be personalised and exciting. But if these cannot be displayed properly and customers can’t see it, then they’re not buying.”
This is set to change with technology players such as Sabre churning out NDC-enabled application programme interfaces (APIs) that are becoming more adopted and user-friendly.
These APIs will allow indirect booking channels, such as travel agencies, to suggest and sell customised and complex flight bundles to consumers more easily and dynamically.
Sundar Narasimhan, senior vice president, Sabre Labs and product strategy, shared that there is currently a gap between the expectations of agencies and that of customers.
For example, while Sabre’s agency clientele holds expectations of dynamic retailing that are limited to the Digital Workspace and Sabre Red 360 solutions, customers have even higher expectations of “friction-free” smart shopping.
“We should be rethinking the way shopping ought to work, especially since it’s going to be more complicated with multiple itineraries, fares, ancillaries and other travel-related content coming up,” said Narasimhan.
“Our vision is to move towards offer management, leaning into intelligent advanced retailing. That’s our big target by 2025, and we’re already taking concrete steps now with the SynXis Intelligent Retailing tool.”