Airlines and global distribution systems (GDSs) risk being shut out of fare distribution if they do not move fast to develop Amazon-style shopping through travel agents.
That is the view of Lufthansa, one of several leading carriers pushing airline association Iata’s drive for a New Distribution Capability (NDC).
Lufthansa distribution, strategy and cost director Jens Ritterhoff told the Iata World Passenger Symposium in Dublin yesterday: “We need to be much more rapid.
“Maybe there is something wrong with the technology ecosystem. There do not seem to be enough players around to satisfy the needs of those around the table.
“We are all going to be locked out of this game if we underestimate the pace of change in distribution. Some new entrant will lock us all out. Do we want to be locked out of the value chain?”
Travelport global technology solutions and services vice president Fergal Kelly insisted: “We are committed to working with people to sell how they want to sell.”
But he said: “We need the airlines to recognise technology is not the barrier here. We’re already on our way. We’ve already placed HTML connections at the heart of what we do.”
Kelly suggested: “Airlines have been building their understanding of what it means to transform themselves into retail companies, but they have been doing it only through the direct channel.
“We’re still in the early stages of discussion about what happens in this [agents’] channel. There is a lot of information to be shared by airlines and corporate customers.
“Ultimately the customer wants to understand the value of what is presented and wants to be able to compare [products].”
Australian Association for Travel Agents chief executive Jayson Westbury said: “We want to sell airline products and we need to have information faster.”
But he told the symposium: “Travel agents do sell other things. I know that is a shock to people here.
“We don’t seem to be having this problem in other areas. We sell about 80% of global cruises. We seem to be able to keep pace with requirements there and cruise is growing at an incredible rate.”
Westbury said: “I don’t think the technology in the travel industry is broken. The airlines are the key. They own the product. We just want the stuff on one screen.”
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