New Distribution Capability (NDC) technology being developed by airlines needs to attain “critical mass” before most agents engage with it.

That is the view of SPAA president and Advantage Travel Partnership director for industry affairs Ken McLeod, who asked: “Who is going to pay for this?”

He warned: “There is still a lot of confusion. Agents are wary of NDC.”

McLeod told an Amadeus fringe session at Abta’s Travel Convention in Seville: “The key question is when will this have critical mass? Until it reaches critical mass, until it’s clear what options there are in the market, small agents will not move.”

He insisted: “At the moment, there is nothing available that will do the whole job [through NDC]. Until something does 80% or 90% of the job, agents won’t move. Most are waiting to see what the GDSs bring out.

“We know we’re not going back, but who is going to pay for this? Amadeus says NDC will cost a lot. Are we going to stay with the status quo where airlines don’t like what the GDSs charge and want to be paid [to make content available]?”

Referring to Iata’s intention to have 21 airlines distribute 20% of their content via NDC by 2020, McLeod said: “The airlines say 20%, but they didn’t say where from. They can’t get to 20% unless they have volume.” He suggested the carriers would look to attain this through online travel agents.

Clare de Bono, Amadeus UK head of product and innovation, agreed: “A lot of agents won’t move if it’s only 20% of content.” In fact, this would equate to about 4% of Iata members’ content.

McLeod said: “The commercials are not agreed by airlines and GDSs yet. What is it going to cost the middleman? Smaller agents and tour operators can’t afford a lot of money.

“Airlines want to sell more product. Everyone wants to sell more product. But there is no point extending bookings if we don’t make any money out of it, if we turn a five-minute booking into a 50-minute booking.

“There is a huge cost. Someone has to pay for this, [and] at the end of the day it will be the consumer.”