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Are You “NIROTIC?” (And Other GBTA Musings)

I recently returned from GBTA in Boston after a long hiatus of attending this annual event. It was nice to be back and see some old friends and lots of new faces. I was honored by an invitation to speak on a couple of panels and did my very best to behave myself. There was a lot of talk about NDC and its impact on the world of corporate travel management and on travelers themselves. I didn’t sense the usual resistance to NDC for the first time in a long time, well actually forever.

Now maybe that “lack of NDC-resistance” was because a couple of weeks before GBTA, American Airlines hosted an NDC Summit in Dallas where they announced a new program to help the travel agency community “Start Somewhere” with American’s NDC API.  There was loads of talk about a carrot versus a stick and much excitement about a $2.00 per booking incentive for all travel agencies for all American marketed flights booked and ticketed using an American-approved NDC connection. American detailed several options for how TMCs can use an AA-approved NDC connection to qualify for the program. Options included: access via a direct AA NDC API link to a TMC, OTA, CBT; access via a Level 3 Certified aggregator (there are many!); access via the AA SPRK UI (powered by Accelya); or access via the GDSs (yes, really!), once they are Level 3 Certified, of course.

It was simply a fantastic message for TMCs, aggregators, GDSs: access the AA NDC API through any channel, by any means, and get yourself $2.00 per booking. What’s not to like about that?  Frictionless choice!

Now, of course, many of the TMCs in the room with American that day openly stated that their preferred way to access the AA NDC API is via the GDSs. And that makes all the sense in the world…until one realizes the GDSs are just a bit delayed in being able to deliver this for AA (or any other airline for that matter).

When the GDSs at the meeting (Sabre, Travelport, and Amadeus) were asked when they would be ready with the AA NDC, the audience heard sincere comments about how complex NDC is, how difficult the integrations are, and that at minimum they needed to wait for the next NDC version (17.2) to come out, (it’s out), and so on. But wait, the GDSs are technology companies, at least that’s what they tell me. Why all the moaning?

What the audience did not hear was any dates from the GDSs, or timeframes of any sort for their respective NDC readiness. No “Q2 2018”, no “maybe will have something in 2019”.  Nothing. But, I am sure that will change given that agencies really want this new AA content and they want to access it through their GDSs.  Of course, the GDSs will make this a priority. Right? Sure, it all makes sense.

To be honest, I could see a bit of growing frustration on the faces of the TMCs.  They seemed to be sensing what was happening, and they were not happy. The thought bubbles went something like this: Here we have the largest airline in the world telling a room full of their most valued TMCs that the airline wants to give them access to all this new content; that the airline is more than happy to have them access their NDC API through the GDSs, and by the way, the TMC can get paid to do this. It’s a nice new incentive that will ultimately deliver new and better content and duty of care capabilities. Wow! When?  Oh right, not a single GDS would say when this will happen.

Well, no need to worry, no need to fret. I have come up with a plan that I borrowed from GBTA. Just like GBTA announced they are unveiling a couple of new indexes for the travel industry, we are announcing a new index for travel agencies concerned about when, GDSs and other technology players, will be ready with NDC API integrations. Drumroll please…

Announcing the “NIROTIC” Index for NDC Readiness!

We are pleased to announce the NDC Integration Readiness of TMC Implementation Capabilities Index a.k.a The NIROTIC Index. NIROTIC is the industry’s first index dedicated to measuring when travel agency technology providers will be ready to deliver NDC to their agency customers.

Our objective with the NIROTIC Index is to stimulate discussion, and provide needed visibility on “how we’re doing” as an industry as relates to NDC readiness.

Naturally, it will take a bit of time to get the NIROTIC Index perfected, as we will depend on verifiable public disclosures or real-world demonstrable examples of technology provider NDC integration capability to publish profiles on various providers.

For this introductory piece, and since most of the TMCs at the AA NDC Summit prefer to “take their NDC through their GDS,” we will start with the GDS NIROTIC index and add others as we get them.

The NIROTIC Index follows technology aggregators that can deliver end-to-end airline NDC APIs to travel agencies regardless of NDC schema version utilized – from NDC Baseline (Open AXIS) to the most recent version to be published by IATA, Version 17.2

Here we go.  The first NIROTIC, this time with a focus on the GDSs.

The above is based on what we know from public disclosures, and we welcome feedback, additions or corrections. Simply contact us with your input.

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