Corporate travel buyers have highlighted concerns about airlines’ New Distribution Capability (NDC) technology as business travel leaders insist NDC is not yet ready for widespread use.

Airline association Iata has set an ambitious target for NDC, with a group of major carriers committed to making 20% of indirect sales via NDC channels by 2020.

But Helder Mendes, NetJets Europe travel supplier relations manager, said: “NDC is not benefiting anybody as it currently is. Everything through the NDC channel takes too long.”

Speaking at the Business Travel Show in London last month, Carine Morin – travel manager and global airline lead at pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly – said: “NDC is sold to us as [about] content and a personalised experience. [But] we need to become experts to get the content we want.”

Chris Pouney, Centrica global category manager for travel, meetings and expense, agreed saying: “There are reasons to be fearful. One, this is a power struggle. Arguably, power resided with the [travel] buyers. Now I see it with the airlines. There is a power shift going on.

“Second, the airline does not see the travel buyer as the customer but the end user and will be striving to up-sell to them.”

He said: “NDC worries me. The sense I get is of a set of controls that no longer reside with the travel manager but with the airline.”

Senior travel management company (TMC) figures agreed. Karen Janssen, chief information officer at Corporate Travel Management UK, said: “Not all things are equal with the technology the airlines have or their ability to provide content.”

Christophe Tcheng, American Express Global Business Travel vice-president for product, said: “NDC is not yet a reality. You can book point to point [flights via NDC], but business travel is about connectivity, about changes.

“Corporate clients are not OK with a car with three wheels.”

Tcheng highlighted a key issue with the personalised fare offers NDC promises, saying: “How do I confirm that the lowest fare is the lowest fare? That is the basic question.

“Clients say, ‘If I give my data, am I going to get a better deal or worse? Are you going to up-sell to me? If so, I’m going to want a personalised fare and a non-personalised fare.’ That is double the traffic, double everything.”

Ray Ollivere, Statesman Travel Group head of strategic planning, added: “NDC bookings can be made, [but] how we process bookings after they are made is a nightmare.

“NDC is about retailing. It fits well with the leisure world. With the corporate world, it needs a lot more thinking.”

Clive Wratten, chief executive of TMC Amber Road, backs development of NDC. He told Travel Weekly: “We’re NDC ready. We’re doing NDC bookings.

“We put as much through as the systems allow, but there is a long way to go. It works, but not in the way it needs to work.”

Lufthansa Group senior manager for distribution strategy Jasmin Eberharter downplayed the level of personalisation possible via NDC. She said: “We are far away from AI [artificial intelligence] personalisation.

“We are more talking about customer segments. We can have different offers for different segments – for a family group or for a bowling club.”

tw4