AviationTravelport, Sabre and Amadeus to make NDC content available to advisors gradually

GDSs say an evolution in air distribution is happening, but slowly

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Leaders of the Amadeus, Travelport and Sabre NDC teams talk about implementation during ARC's Travel Connect conference. Photo Credit: Chuck Fazio

VIRGINIA – The three major GDSs are inching forward in their efforts to make New Distribution Capability (NDC) content widely available to travel advisors. Still, due to a series of remaining challenges, that won't happen for at least another six months, and it may take well over a year.

That was the consensus of a panel comprised of executives charged with NDC implementation at Amadeus, Travelport and Sabre. The panel was part of the annual ARC Travel Connect conference.

"Over the last 12 to 18 months, the level of collaboration has elevated to a point where we are starting to see progress being made," said Stewart Alvarez, Amadeus' head of industry affairs for the Americas. He expects momentum to pick up in the next six to 18 months.

So far, the GDSs are still in beta testing phases of their NDC connections, working with select travel agency partners. Meanwhile, under the IATA Leaderboard Initiative, 21 airlines have said they aspire to accomplish 20% of indirect sales via an NDC-enabled connection by the end of next year. Such sales could be through a GDS or direct connections with travel agencies.

At the IATA General Meeting in Seoul in June, IATA director of distribution services Eric Leopold predicted that those airlines would meet that goal. The GDSs are less optimistic.

Ian Heywood, Travelport's global head of new distribution, said he thinks at least some airlines will reach that goal, but that the GDSs would be the key to them getting there.

Cindy Tonnessen, Sabre's head of NDC, was less optimistic.

"I don't think we'll have the scale in place yet. That will extend into 2021," she said.

The GDSs said that developing a NDC pipeline is a challenging undertaking. A slide displayed by Heywood, for example, showed a 33-part roadmap for developing its Trip Services NDC API.

"There is just so much that's got to be done. What you are starting to see is solutions going out in the marketplace. They are basic, and they are going to have to be built on and that will grow," he said.  

The GDSs also said that they are waiting on the airlines in part. Heywood noted that Travelport has had to wait on airlines to release schemas for various components of the NDC integration.

Tonnessen showed a video of an NDC-enabled search query response on the Sabre Red 360 desktop interface. The response populated slowly, which Tonnessen said was due to technological shortcomings from airlines that aren't ready for the number of users they will get.

Still, Alvarez said to expect continued progress toward scalability.

"We are putting in a significant effort to put something out and build on it," he said.

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