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A week after announcing plans to pursue a new distribution capability (NDC) solution, Delta Air Lines on Thursday identified four “solution design partners,” including airline technology specialist Accelya, which will build the platform.

Delta was the last of the three major United States-based network airlines to hop aboard the NDC movement. As she did last week in breaking the news of Delta’s plans, Sara Reid, the airline’s managing director of sales technology and global sales support, reiterated that the airline won’t be implementing a global distribution system (GDS) surcharge, like Air France-KLM, Lufthansa Group and others, or removing content from the GDSs like American Airlines.

“We have no plans to follow other carriers’ strategies where they’re taking forceful approaches to implement certain charges and to remove content,” Reid said. “We believe that customers will want to use our NDC solution because it’s going to create value for them. And so that is what we’re focused on: Unlocking value and driving adoption by creating better products, better merchandising and better servicing.”

The industry has been pushing for years the need to modernize the way airlines distribute and sell their products and services, with experts pointing to 2024 as a pivotal year. And Delta’s news comes amid a spate of new developments on the NDC front from other airlines, including American Airlines, British Airways and Finnair.

Speaking at Delta’s spring business showcase, Reid didn’t go into detail on what roles the other partners — Google, travel data company ARC and the global trade association IATA — will perform. She characterized Delta’s approach as that of a collaborator. The company began dialogues with partner corporate travel managers and agencies, global distribution systems, online booking tools and other sellers six months before revealing its plans.

“We are focused on developing solutions that create value for our customers rather than rushing technology out to the market,” she told a live audience of Delta employees and a streaming audience of clients and other interested parties.

Asked specifically about Google’s participation, Reid referenced work the search giant already does with Delta’s direct channel.

Quote

We really don’t see a finish line to NDC. There is no formal finish line because innovation is never finished.

Sara Reid – Delta

“We’re looking to kind of leverage what they do well with us directly and help us optimize our offers in the third-party channel,” Reid said. “We want to put offers out that are very relevant to our customers. And we want to ensure that people aren’t having to scroll through page after page after page to find the offer that they’re looking for. So we’ll be working with them and using what they do really well in this journey.”

Reid also shared that Delta intended to build its model based on IATA’s latest version of its NDC standards — “the IATA 21.3 schema” — though she added the airline wouldn’t be constrained from “developing capabilities that create value.”

“This journey is an evolution, not a revolution,” she said.

Miami-based Accelya will have a prominent role. The company’s FLX platform is used by 19 airlines, including American and United, and enabled half of all global NDC transactions in 2022, the company said. It links airlines with over 50,000 travel agents, including the world’s largest online travel agencies and travel management companies.

“We are delighted to be partnering with a global industry leader in support of Delta’s drive to retail modernization,” Accelya CEO Sam Gilliland said. “The Accelya FLX platform will empower Delta to take control of their retailing future, with Accelya supporting them every step of the way.”

Reid said Delta would launch a new site sharing more detailed plans of when features will be available. Customers will be able to test the technology late this year, with new features and capabilities being released throughout next year.

“We really don’t see a finish line to NDC,” she said. “There is no formal finish line because innovation is never finished.”

American Airlines partners with Aeronology

A year ago, American Airlines was an NDC trailblazer when it made 40% of its lowest fares available only through its own digital channels and NDC-driven channels. By the end of the fourth quarter, the carrier said 80% of bookings were coming via internet-based channels, and 65% of those come via its own web and mobile channels.

American isn’t resting on its laurels. It announced this week that it has certified Australian-based travel tech company Aeronology – a PhocusWire Hot 25 Travel Startup for 2023 — to offer its fares and ancillary services on an NDC-enabled interface.

Aeronology’s booking platform will offer access to retailers, corporate clients and wholesalers, among others, and it will also support American’s launch of dynamically priced offers expected later this year.

“Working with travel technology companies like Aeronology provides our customers access to enhanced content and functionality that is only available through NDC-enabled interfaces,” said Marcial Lapp, managing director of revenue engineering at American Airlines.

Aeronology CEO Russell Carstensen called the deal a milestone for his company.

“Our commitment to reshaping airline distribution and revolutionizing air travel experiences for our customers remains steadfast,” he said, adding, “NDC distribution channels are evolving, scaling up in usability and management ease.”

British Airways has a new deal with Amadeus

Also this week, British Airways announced it will use the new Amadeus Nevio product to deliver the carrier’s more personalized offer and order model, with Nevio’s artificial intelligence technology facilitating more dynamic products and bundles.

Last year the carrier started distributing its NDC-based offers through Amadeus in certain markets. Nevio will be “implemented gradually” for British Airways starting next year, according to Amadeus.

Maher Koubaa, the executive vice president of travel unit at Amadeus, called the deal transformative.

“The milestone partnership unveiled today is a significant step in our journey to making modern retailing a reality, with the deployment of rich, dynamic, personalized offers and next-generation order management,” Koubaa said.

Finnair partners with CWT

Meanwhile, Finnair announced a partnership with travel management company CWT to expand access to its NDC content. The Finland-based airline last year announced it would remove domestic flights from EDIFACT-based distribution systems and make them available only directly or through NDC-based channels.

CWT, which is being acquired by American Express Global Business Travel in a $570 million deal, plans to expand coverage of Finnair’s NDC content in the Nordics, including additional routes, airlines and points of sale over the next three months.

“We’re excited to make further progress on this distribution transformation to enable us to provide more personalized and dynamic content and to meet our joint customers’ needs and expectations,” said Jenni Suomela, vice president of global sales and channel management at Finnair.

Phocuswright Europe 2024

Hear from Lufthansa Group’s head of customer experience Tamur Goudarzi Pour during an Executive Interview as he discusses how airlines can elevate the customer experience and boost loyalty.



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