Reimagining of money – time for travel merchants to act?

23rd December, 2020

Paying for a transaction, clearing bills, finalizing a loan…activities associated with money are evolving.

Not only the likes of Amazon and Google, but fintech start-ups and growth-stage companies are leading novel initiatives that are being deemed as simple and secure. Examples - using a palm for various activities is what Amazon is working, whereas Google is looking at a new way to bank.

Explaining how “challengers” are leveraging technology and data, for instance, in the manner in which credit is accessed, consumed and cleared, Jonathan Vaux says with a pragmatic approach tailored offerings are being crafted for consumers.

“(Challengers) have not treated credit as a “product”, but rather a feature or ingredient that can be tailored and configured to best serve the needs of the user,” he says. Vaux, in a blog post added, “If a customer has an immediate need to purchase a high-ticket item and needs some short-term funding until some cashflow pressures are resolved, this can now be easily configured in modern financial services.”


Counting on data 

Be it for travel e-commerce players or any other sector such as financial services, data analytics is going to become even more critical as entities look to gain access to alternative sources of data to enrich their understanding of customers and their risk exposures. 

Travel e-commerce players need to have a thorough understanding of their (limited) place in the customer’s circle of purchase points around daily needs. Travellers not only buy travel products, but they also need to assistance with paying bills, sending money, buying online, and managing expenses. 

Collaborative route 

Travel e-commerce players can partner with fintech apps by offering complementary products on each other’s platforms, thereby mutually growing customer bases without needing to develop entire platforms. Investing in new lines of business is a challenging undertaking, even for established online travel players. It requires long-term technological investment, brand development, as well as significant legal efforts and regulatory requirements to be addressed. Fintech apps will face the same challenges as established OTAs do when it comes to introducing new products or services. Organic growth is not for everyone. Instead, those who have the financial strength will likely look down the acquisition path as a way to expand business lines that support further access to the full circle of purchase contacts of their customers, including acquisition of some fintech players. 

How travel brands foray and strengthen their place in this “money-reimagined “loop is a trend worth watching out for.


Ritesh Gupta

Ai Team 


A seamless travel experience – how to pave way for the same?

4th December, 2020

Nezasa, a technology provider for automated trip planning, fulfillment and personalization, acknowledges that travel has a new buzzword in the “Connected Trip”.  It is being described as “the ability to sell end-to-end itineraries to travellers but in a digital, interactive, hyper-personalised way, throughout the whole travel lifecycle”.  


The company, which this week raised US$ 6 million taking its total funding to $13m, believes the timing of this funding is perfect because the travel industry is due for a rebound sometime during 2021.

“The idea of “Connected Trip” has not become relevant only since the Corona pandemic has hit the travel sector - it is what the travellers want and will want after the pandemic, too. However, its relevance has increased, because the technology that is needed to enable the connected trip can also help during the current crisis,” Hilty told Ai’s Ritesh Gupta. “Technology can ensure in a split second whether a component of the trip stands in the way of a seamless realisation.”

The company asserts that its platform allows for complete customisation of an itinerary. Hilty spoke about the same:

Ai: How can the Connected Trip platform streamline the entire planning and booking journey of a traveler, especially considering the new factors that have to be considered because of the pandemic?

Manuel Hilty: The Connected Trip wants to create a seamless experience for the traveller. They should have a frictionless trip, in which they can book where and what they want, whenever they want. At the same time, it means the highest level of personalisation, too. Travellers can just mix and match products in order to create a trip that is truly uniquely suited for them.

This idea of the connected trip has not become relevant only since the Corona pandemic has hit the travel sector - it is what the travellers want and will want after the pandemic, too. However, its relevance has increased, because the technology that is needed to enable the connected trip can also help during the current crisis. It handles the vast complexity that is behind trip planning and it helps to react faster to unforeseen events and changes. So essentially, by streamlining all single services into one unified trip and making sure that all underlying complexity is handled so that the trip goes seamlessly, the traveller is freed to focus fully on having an unforgettable experience.

Trip booking engines like ours ensure exactly that. It makes the experience more wholesome for the traveller, but it makes the life of the travel provider much easier, too.

Ai:  How can technology play its part in offering flexibility to consumers in case they intend to cancel or change a booking, and at the same time how can the same be simplified for airlines to manage the same?

Manuel Hilty: Technology can ensure in a split second whether a component of the trip stands in the way of a seamless realisation. In contrast, it could require hours of manual work for a travel provider or the traveller to make sure everything is still in order. For instance, by canceling a booking in our TripBuilder application, all services can be cancelled together - with just one click. The same applies to changes: Let’s say the travellers want to extend their stay in location A by one night: you just click one button and the whole itinerary gets amended with the new dates and the system ensures that the consistency is kept, meaning that all travel products are also available on the new dates.

In the end, technology takes time-consuming manual work of the user and frees them to do what they enjoy: create trips that fit their desires or those of their customers, instead of double checking whether the dates and products fit all together. This is very interesting for airlines too, especially in these times, when flight planning is so much more complex due to rapidly changing situations.

Ai:  Travelers are likely to be interested in evaluating what a trip would look like – for instance, the airport experience, the protocols being followed within an aircraft or in a hotel. How do you think travel providers can play their part in the same?

Manuel Hilty: Content is absolutely one of the kings in today’s travel distribution. We have seen that in hotel distribution for a long time, but it’s also important for any type of travel experience. The more one can show the traveller upfront, the higher the chance of conversion.

Travel providers can give travellers an idea of what they can expect of a trip not only by illustrating what hotels, attractions etc. look like, but also by providing travel documentation that is tailored to the trip the customer has booked. But it doesn’t stop there. More and more information will be needed about procedures and protocols that have to be followed, restrictions to be kept in mind etc. This information is not always static. Therefore, it’s also important to stay in touch with the customer and inform them about short-term changes.

There are several technology providers already out there that can provide help in all of the above areas.

Ai: What can contribute to verticalization of business, i.e. upselling and the opportunity for additional business that was attractive to airlines before Covid-19, but may be even more crucial now?

Manuel Hilty: The attractiveness of selling ancillary services, hence making additional revenue with a customer, will become more important than ever. Since volume has been decreasing massively, airlines need to think outside the box. That’s where additional business comes in - it brings new business opportunities. One of them is to upsell by offering further elements of a trip in a seamless way. This can include single elements as well as a fully packaged trip. Nezasa’s solutions, for example, support both. This gives airlines a new angle to the market in which they already possess a high level of enterprise and trusting customers.

Ai:  Can you cite a couple of examples how airlines can garner additional revenue or incremental revenue from existing demand?

Manuel Hilty:

  • Extend existing shopping baskets by offering additional products like hotels, rental cars, transfers, activities, ferries, event tickets, etc.
  • Complete the itinerary with additional services like insurances and travel companions (like maps and virtual travel guides).
  • Make use of in-destination upsells like excursions, event tickets, rental cars, etc., Our tool TripBooster is ideally suited for such incremental sales.

Ai: What hinders airlines from unlocking upsell potential?

Manuel Hilty: Having to take on tour operating liability might let airlines hesitate in unlocking these upselling potentials. Another big hurdle is the lack of technology and the need of investment to develop it. However, the technology is already there: airlines don’t need the IT department or expertise themselves, they need a trusted partner who can provide it. Nezasa is such a partner, providing spearheading solutions to the market.


Time for airlines to count on data “to understand scale of lost opportunity”

16th November, 2020

Interview with Paul Alexander, Group Chief Executive, Beyond Analysis


How is travel-related spending intent shaping up? What can trigger a transaction in a specific category? How to identify high value customer segments?

The role of data science in making a meaningful contribution at this juncture is being scrutinized.

Ai’s Ritesh Gupta interacted with Paul Alexander, Group Chief Executive, Beyond Analysis about the same. Excerpts:

Ai: How have your interactions with airlines shaped up during the pandemic? How do you think data can play its part at this critical juncture?

Paul Alexander: Based on companies we interact with, I think we can divide airlines in to two distinct camps. 

  • Camp 1 – those who were thrown in to a panic and who are still, to a large extent panicking. 
  • Camp 2 – those who were thrown in to a panic, but wanted to use the data they have at their fingertips, and the insight we can glean from that data, to diagnose issues and attend to them fast.   And that’s what is vital - the key in the current environment (lies) is using data to diagnose issues and opportunities fast, and mobilizing the organization to respond at light speed.  For that you need the data, the people who know what they are doing with it, the tools to automate quickly, and the organization ready to adapt.  All of those things need to be lined up.

Ai: Airlines’ main focus right now is on capturing demand and taking as many bookings as possible. What role can data analytics play in revenue generation, be it via their core product, air ancillaries, non-air ancillaries etc.?

Paul Alexander: Focus on bookings is key and is the right thing to do, particularly when there is so much pent-up demand in the marketplace.  As restrictions lift, airlines need to be perfectly positioned to grab that demand which will soar, and then decline back down to ‘normal’ levels (whatever the new normal is going to be).  However, equally important is ensuring that delivering to pent-up demand when it is unleashed doesn’t impact upon customer experience. 

We operate across multiple sectors, and we have seen instances of where retailers (for example) whose businesses have soared after retail has reopened, but they have failed to service the increased demand.  Now, more than ever, the data needs to be joined up to understand the customer from core transaction/  booking systems, their interaction with ancillaries (non-air and air), customer feedback surveys, web interaction.  Generating bookings at any cost will be good for short-term results, but beware long-term reputation damage if you can’t handle the work.

Ai: What should they focus on when it comes to sustaining spend from existing base of customers from their respective FFPs/ co-brand credit card relationships?

Paul Alexander: ‘Sustaining spend from an existing base’ is different to ‘sustaining spend from your best customers’, and whether it’s revenue, profit, or both, I’d argue. Taking a snapshot of the most valuable customers before COVID and looking at how they are interacting now and how to engage them.  As restrictions lift, how to find more of those customers, rather than all customers will be key.

Ai: “A customer spending $1000 via a merchant’s co-brand partner relationship is spending $5000 with competition. What would you do differently as a result of that knowledge?" Beyond Analysis recommends in understanding a consumer and delivering the most relevant proposition. How airlines can focus on this?

Paul Alexander: Most businesses know what their customers are doing these days.  But… what aren’t those customers doing but should be, particularly if you perceive them to be loyal? 

I use the example of someone who heads in to a DIY store to buy tiles, but not the grout to stick them to a wall. We know they need to get the grout somewhere, so what’s wrong with our proposition – the price, or the quality of the product?  It’s time the airline industry started more extensively using data to understand the scale of the lost opportunity.  I fly from London to Sydney with my favorite airline, and two weeks later fly from London to Paris with the same airline.  How did I get back from Sydney?  Why didn’t I choose my favourite airline?  Was it price, schedule, capacity…?  Industries who fail spend too much time looking at the ‘false positives’ the people who did do something, the people who didn’t but should have done are key to unlocking growth.

Ai: What’s your recommendation to airlines when it comes to capitalizing on data – for both the short-term and medium term?

Paul Alexander: Work within your leadership team and your experienced data partners to prioritise the activities you collectively think will make a positive difference to results.  Use data to confirm which activities are actually going to make a positive difference if you can execute.  Execute those activities fast.  Rinse and repeat.


Paul spoke at the recently conducted Ai’s Co-brand & Travel Reward Cards Virtual Conference 2020.


Ecosystems lead new developments in contactless + frictionless shopping

30th October, 2020

Ordering a product while reading something in a messaging app or email, using palm to complete a transaction…retailers must gear up for fast emerging possibilities.

Payment specialists and other stakeholders focused on streamlining the digital shopping are trying to keep pace with what consumers are looking for - easy, quick and secure commerce. For example, higher contactless limits or facilitating instant buys within emails and text messages, to support recovery plans/ campaigns.

Certain trends like contactless payments or dynamic / interactive emails that support a transaction as well, aren’t new. Merchants are used to offerings like crafting an abandoned cart dynamic block, using event data, within a flow email. But as digital commerce and payment specialists dig deep to ensure shoppers feel at ease novel initiatives continue to emerge.

New Developments

Visa has highlighted that consumers are choosing PIN-free technology for their everyday spending. The company has processed more than half a billion additional touch-free payments, where previously consumers would have needed to use a PIN pad, since contactless limits were increased in more than 29 countries across Europe.

Recently Amazon shared plans for a contactless way, Amazon One, for people to use their palm to make everyday activities like paying at a store, presenting a loyalty card, entering a location like a stadium etc.

And the likes of Discover and Mastercard are already looking at SRC specifications. It being asserted that SRC gives every merchant “the ability to offer the Amazon experience”.

As for using existing channels, Google to is working on plans to let Gmail users view real time product options and checkout from inside email.

Specialists working with airlines have been working on various aspects, be it for interactive content, selling ancillaries or simplifying the checkout experience. A couple of examples - SeatAssignMate connecting email content to the airlines’ PSS system in order to streamline in real-time data. EveryMundo has partnered with Uplift to integrate monthly payments within airModules. Partners can now display installments with their fares to make travel even more accessible.

Travel merchants need to prioritize and gear up latest e-commerce related developments.

By Ritesh Gupta

Ai Team


To pay or not to pay for NDC content – the latest saga in NDC

16th September, 2020

Key aspects of airline indirect distribution including GDS surcharge, distribution of content, booking flow of shop, order, pay etc. are being assessed in Europe.

Post the recent deal between the Air France-KLM group and Amadeus and the news of Lufthansa opting to hike GDS surcharge by 30% or so, the timing as well as the nature of the same is being probed.

Commenting on the recent Air France-KLM and Amadeus deal, experienced airline distribution and technology executive, Ann Cederhall said, “Private channel is not a new concept and kudos if the administration of the deals can easily be managed by the airline. The agent will in the private channel get a discount on the GDS surcharge and only pay a few euros for the NDC content, this is a first as I see it.”

“What would be interesting to understand is how much better the content is and is it worth paying for. Another observation is the parity, that the access will be the same as for any other intermediary or GDS,” said Ann, who added that a significant part of NDC is about control, in the GDS the airlines have little or no control mechanisms. As for the GDS and the agent community. She said, “My understanding when reading the article is that Amadeus takes the step towards becoming an aggregator and the assumption here is that it would allow any integration the agent requires e.g. a low-cost airline? The whole purpose of using an aggregator is the ability to integrate any content of choice. Slightly worrying in this release are the comments on how "there may be agents struggling with the content and servicing of the content.”

The industry has questioned the timing of Lufthansa’s latest move. On Lufthansa’s move, Ann said, “The hiking of the LHG surcharge is bold but might be the right timing to do so as they strengthen their role as the forerunner of disrupting GDS distribution. It will be most interesting to follow this development especially as SQ are rolling out their program simultaneously.”

“Any move towards servicing the customer in the whole digital journey is a step forward and I look forward to following this development with interest,” said Ann.


Related link: Delving into the Air France-KLM and Amadeus deal, what does it signify?


By Ritesh Gupta

Ai Correspondent 


Delving into the Air France-KLM and Amadeus deal, what does it signify?

11th September, 2020

The Air France-KLM group and Amadeus NDC distribution deal is under scrutiny.

“What does it mean for different stakeholders?” and other aspects like the link between a surcharge and new content are being evaluated.

Commenting on what it signifies as far as NDC and indirect distribution is concerned, Alexander v. Bernstorff, Director Airline Solutions, InteRES said, “We are in year 10 of AFs NDC efforts. 12 years after Lufthansa paved the way for airlines to leave the full-content model with their Preferred Fares Model, it appears airlines are still in the process of managing GDS commercials and signing parity agreements. That’s somehow weird as NDC was meant for airlines to make more relevant offers to consumers and also to finally solve the issue of ridiculous complexity, particularly when it comes to changing a booking.”

Von Bernstorff pointed out that seemingly there aren’t any suggestions as to the nature and quality of content delivered through this pipe, plus it doesn’t look like the complexity issue has been tackled: “they say it will take until 2021 for sellers to even have access to that content (albeit at an undefined surcharge) and well into 2021 for providing servicing features, he said. “Hold on – NDC provides for a significantly simplified re-shop process, so where is it?”

But what von Bernstorff finds most striking is that Amadeus has obviously not yet realised a “primary integration of Altea and Navitaire into the Amadeus travel platform for NDC content”, as Robert Buckman of Amadeus says.

“My call-to-action for airlines is to not follow suit with financial models, but instead to build capabilities that can help them differentiate and improve consumer experience. And this has nothing to with NDC – a generic commercial strategy is needed badly in these most uncertain times. The good news is: tech providers like ourselves are ready to go!” concluded von Bernstorff. 

By Ritesh Gupta

Ai Correspondent


Being creative with travel recovery – going beyond traditional touchpoints

Interview with Ernst Hemmer

9th September, 2020


How can the travel industry make the most of novel finance and shopping-related activities that have emerged or strengthened over the past six months or so?

This must be assessed as travel brands chart recovery plans, looking at avenues that can trigger a transaction by being present on non-traditional travel marketing touchpoints.

Can a fintech app be a new channel for customer acquisition? How can frequently used superapps remove payment-related friction?

The fact digital activity has risen this year owing to the demand for contactless/ touchfree interactions, and much of it is related to paying for frequent bills, utility buys, personal finance etc., travel companies must look into opportunities that come along with such evolving behavior. A lot is being said about how consumers, especially the Millennials and the GenZ , are saving money, trying out new payment options etc.

“There is a clear redefinition of the retail banking and payment space taking place, where platform apps and neobanks are offering digital-only banking and payment options,” said Singapore-based senior travel industry executive, Ernst Hemmer.

Looking at “painpoints” and capitalizing on them

Hemmer highlighted that consumers are growing increasingly frustrated with legacy banking service providers, and traditional banks are being challenged.

“The new, post-Covid, economy is accelerating this trend toward digital-only payment modes. This provides both opportunities and challenges for travel e-commerce merchants. There are challenges in regulatory requirements to be overcome, and there are opportunities in expanding ways in which travel is purchased and in flexible terms of conditions and payment,” he said.

Consumers have been worried about various aspects of their lives, and even not satisfied with several activities, as Hemmer pointed out. And those companies which are looking at better solutions can be new allies for travel. “Travel e-commerce players need to have a thorough understanding of their (limited) place in the customer’s circle of purchase points around daily needs. Travellers not only buy travel products, but they also need to assistance with paying bills, sending money, buying online, and managing expenses,” mentioned Hemmer. He referred to the role being played by fintech apps and superapps:

  • Fintech apps “have access to this customer data like no other, and are able to respond to this customer demand,” said Hemmer. “Travel e-commerce players can partner with fintech apps by offering complementary products on each other’s platforms, thereby mutually growing customer bases without needing to develop entire platforms,” added Hemmer.  
  • Superapps on the other hand offer full ecosystems of shopping, food, travel, finance, much like China’s Alipay or WeChat pay, India’s PayTM, or Indonesia’s GoJek. They are in an advantageous position of owning the full circle of customer purchase points. Their large customer bases will guarantee them dominant roles in the post-Covid travel end-game, said Hemmer.

Possibility of strategic investment by travel giants

Established online travel players have invested in car hailing and superapps in the past.

So does Hemmer foresee any investment in consumer fintech apps in the near future?

“Investing in new lines of business is a challenging undertaking, even for established online travel players. It requires long-term technological investment, brand development, as well as significant legal efforts and regulatory requirements to be addressed. Fintech apps will face the same challenges as established OTAs do when it comes to introducing new products or services. Organic growth is not for everyone. Instead, those who have the financial strength will likely look down the acquisition path as a way to expand business lines that support further access to the full circle of purchase contacts of their customers, including acquisition of some fintech players,” explained Hemmer.

As for how the fintech apps are expected to approach travel content, he said the likes of buy now pay later specialists can build content such as travel products, and promotions. “There will be opportunities for these apps to expand into travel, however it’s likely this will need to come through partnerships with travel providers and OTA’s, rather than from building travel as a core product,” he said. For example, Grab, Shopback, Rebatemango, have all smartly embarked on this partnerships route, mentioned Hemmer.


Explore payment-related trends at the upcoming Airline Travel Payment Summit - ATPS Virtual Conference 2020

Date: 20 - 22 Oct 2020



Covid19 - Exhibiting empathy in travel e-commerce

12th August, 2020

Travelers are seeking additional information and it is up to travel companies to boost their confidence, writes Ai’s Ritesh Gupta


Travel recovery depends on a lot of how safe one feels about the next trip, and this is in addition to a number of other aspects that one generally considers before finalizing an itinerary. Airlines and other travel e-commerce players are adjusting to the realities of how to serve consumers across all the phases of a trip.

E-commerce specialists must work on the blend of content, tools, UI, UX etc. to ensure relevant details are provided just when needed. These include areas like – How safe is a particular location? How can one prepare for a trip and what is mandatory? Can I get a refund in case I decide not to go ahead with the booking? What does Force Majeure on my travel policy cover me for?

Airlines are doing their bit to encourage travel. For instance, Emirates is offering free global cover for COVID-19 medical expenses and quarantine costs should they incur these costs during their travel.

The entire booking flow needs to be refined. Some pertinent points are:

  • Tools for updated, real-time, easy-to-comprehend information: Imagine a traveler searching for a fare or any travel product, certain tabs or sections emerge for one to explore additional details to assure them and instill confidence for them to go ahead. For instance, if one is looking for going from A to B and the itinerary features multi-modal transportation, then what sort of safety measures are in place at a particular airport and station, how much time would it take for one to board the aircraft, train etc. Getting closer to the real experience is one way to soothe concerns and for this travel e-commerce needs to step up and creatively depict the same. 
  • Photos and videos: The use of videos or latest photographs can help. If those customers who have undertaking trips in the last month or so and are willing to feature in interviews/ testimonies, they can feature in videos post their trips (talking about the check-in experience or the journey) to encourage others.
  • Payment: Customers are peeved at not being able to receive refund for flight cancellations. And one can be wary of booking the next trip if they don’t foresee any solution. How about an airline not only clarifying their stance regarding the same, and even highlighting the option of flexible or installment payments? The issue of refund for installment payments was discussed during one of Ai’s webinars. According to the US-based fintech company Uplift, whether an airline processes a full or a partial refund, it processes debits directly against that consumer’s loan.   
  • Technology: Travel merchants can rely on tools tailored for mobile to share their safety and cleaning procedures. United Airlines recently launched a new chat function – the United Automated Assistant – to give customers a contactless option to receive immediate access to information about cleaning and safety procedures put in place due to.  

Related video - Impact on travel e-commerce’s digital product strategy

Airline Travel Payment Summit - ATPS Virtual Conference
20 - 21 Oct 2020

The ATPS Virtual, co-hosted with UATP, is dedicated to the payments and fraudprevention strategies needed for airlines and travel-related businesses to survive.


Covid19 - Evaluating the future of airline indirect distribution

27th July, 2020

Interview with Ann Cederhall


Airlines have struggled with the cash flow and liquidity-related issues over the past three-four months. As the entire industry focuses on recovery campaigns to stimulate and capitalize on travel demand for revenue generation, what to expect as far as indirect distribution is concerned?

What is going to happen in the following areas: the focus on pushing for more bookings via NDC content and cutting down on the “traditional” bookings;  NDC indirect sales and 21/20/20 target; the equation between full-service airlines and GDS etc.

Ai’s Ritesh Gupta spoke to experienced airline distribution and technology executive, Ann Cederhall. Excerpts:

Ai: How do you expect airline indirect distribution, especially for full-service airlines, to shape up post crisis?

Ann Cederhall:  Observing the response of certain entities in the traditional PSS/ GDS and the distribution landscape during the ongoing crisis, there are ample indications that these players are not agile enough. They are not able to adjust appropriately to a crisis.

Hats off to ATPCO for delivering a waiver in three months but will we yet one more time find it acceptable that the systems we work with require this type of lead time?

In the other corner are those fighting for the old tried solutions and who keep reiterating that NDC does not work. 

So, this crisis has made the divide wider and to each side proved their points.  But the crisis has most likely required airlines to look into and question their processes and the cost associated. The biggest problem for traditional airlines is that they never change processes, functionality and the way they do stuff meaning that they endlessly build on top of legacy processes instead of asking questions such as what can be removed. I have rarely come across airlines who look into what is the profit versus cost of codeshare, complexity in fare rules and fares distribution, one example that I often mention is the need to benchmark lowest fare on the Internet, is that worth the cost when 70-80% of all corporate fares are private anyway? 

The low-cost airlines with relatively simple structure are not impacted by distribution in any different way than before the crisis, on the other hand they are probably well prepared to create products that match the needs of customers like refund value going into travel banks, they are not hindered by the traditional distribution landscape and can focus on loyalty and new functionality attracting customers. An example is Wizzair who offer a higher refund value if the refund goes into its travel bank. 

Ai: Considering that airlines are trying to chart recovery plans and, in this context, they would be ready to take as many as bookings as they can from any channel, what sort of impact it will have on focus on differentiation, cost of distribution etc. that is essentially associated with NDC content/ distribution?

Ann Cederhall:  Airlines are focused on getting bookings and not going to initially care where that booking is coming from. Airlines are also constrained by their reduced workforce and the main focus is not going to be on the cost of the booking. Those airlines who are more mature will be trying to create content that is unique and fits the context of the new world they are selling into. Reducing risk for COVID19,  adjusting where/ how they sell their solutions based on the channel.  I can't stress enough how airlines have failed to understand the total ecosystem and have focused on their own channel; this is a mistake. I find it remarkable that you still have mid and back office solution designed based on a GDS PNR. The times are gone when the GDS is the single source of truth, this is not possible in a digital world where content must be aggregated irrespective of how it is sold.

My personal view is that so much time has been wasted in NDC initiative by not focusing on what does matter such as:

Airlines must be able to provide their data for free or at a low cost via a modern API that the airline owns and controls together with airline partners to enable tech developers to drive innovation, cost should not be an encumbrance. 

·         NDC should have focused on Corporate Customers and TMCs and drive innovation in the mid and back office space, if these agencies and tools are GDS centric it clashes with the customer requirements.

·         NDC should have lobbied and worked for mandating communications between systems, they should have from the start been looking into how can an airline sell its content to e.g. another airline at a reasonable cost, you should be free to sell your content from your PSS in a cost-efficient way. 

Ai: GDSs are critical to the adoption of NDC. What sort of response do you expect from them when it comes to tech and commercial aspects of working with full-service carriers?

Ann Cederhall:  GDSs have their own business model and it often conflicts with what the airlines want.  In the end it is the distribution network that suffers.  Solutions from the airlines have to plug into existing solutions/ paths with the GDSs.  More and more everyone is going online - so TMCs and OTAs who have a single interface going to multiple systems are more aligned to accept other channels. 

However, they have been somewhat reticent and lack some of the expertise to do this effectively.  Those that do succeed, will no doubt find additional content and pricing being made available to them. The question is whether changes can be made to the very traditional GDS business model to find a meaningful way forward? Then I think there will be a paradigm shift especially if newer 3rd party solutions begin to mature and plug into these channels as well complimenting and eventually building its own self-sufficient ecosystem to manage bookings and deliver true Door to Door servicing for a frictionless traveler journey.

Ai: Going back by six months or so, it was being highlighted that 21 airlines had committed that by the end of 2020, 20% of their indirect sales will be made using NDC i. e. 21/20/20 target. What to expect on this count?

Ann Cederhall:

Being able to service, provide more revenue opportunities and meet the needs better of the travelers across all channels is where we are lacking. Volume will of course put more money and attention here, but true vision is what is needed.  There are those who still discount NDC altogether.  They are not wrong with their comments about where it has failed to meet expectation, but I think they are wrong about their conclusions that it will never work. I don't think it is the right time to even have a target, the need for a better customer experience should be the focus instead rather than setting goals. 

I am a firm believer though that a direct connect should be a booking made through your host system and visibility of that booking in your host, or maybe we will see the day where the whole concept of PSS changes, for what is it more than reservation and inventory, couldn't the rest just be systems operating services? 

Ai: Talking of the power balance, considering the role of GDS in distribution, how do you expect the equation between full-service airlines and GDS evolving in the next 18 months or so? What will happen to the focus on distribution featuring NDC content via one API?

Ann Cederhall:  The NDC concept was alive before NDC even with ITA and G2.  The GDSs however fought back, and only now are adopting it a bit more readily.  However, they are in this to make money too.  Those who can find a way to update their solutions to accommodate NDC and existing pathways, will find they that will continue to stay relevant.  As we see more and more business shift from one GDS to another, there will be a definitive change in the ecosystem.  Having said that, the real change I still predict will come from 3rd party solutions who are able to plug into the ecosystem.  To support this change, GDSs SHOULD, ensure that they have platforms that can successfully manage NDC content along with other APIs to 3rd parties as well.