NDC Q&A with BCD Travel’s Rose Stratford

Full access to content via New Distribution Capability (NDC) is returning to the spotlight for corporate travel managers and program stakeholders as demand for travel grows. In a short Q&A, Rose Stratford, Executive Vice President, Global Supplier Relations & Strategic Sourcing at BCD Travel, reflects on BCD’s journey with NDC in the last few years and what we’re doing next.

What has BCD been working on?

BCD has more proven experience than any other global TMC in providing clients with New Distribution Capability from the world’s biggest airlines to our clients, having assessed and tested multiple airlines, across multiple technologies and platforms. Since 2019, we’ve been delivering Lufthansa Group Airlines NDC content to our clients through offline and online channels in Europe. As part of its multimillion-dollar investment in the platforms, BCD actively works with key industry stakeholders to evaluate, develop and test (NDC) solutions with multiple airlines and technology partners in Europe, the Americas and Asia Pacific.

Rose Stratford Executive Vice President Global Supplier Relations Strategic Sourcing BCD Travel

From the outset, our work in this area has been designed to find solutions to fulfill corporate programs’ fundamental requirement for NDC transactions: clients expect comprehensive content that goes beyond bookings to ensure full service and support capabilities.

Current development and testing initiatives include:

  • Air France-KLM, American Airlines and Singapore Airlines via Amadeus’ NDCx environment
  • Qantas, Singapore Airlines and United Airlines via Sabre’s Beyond NDC environment
  • British Airways via BCD’s own AgentSource platform
  • Lufthansa Group full NDC content for specific customers

Our extensive, rigorous testing has made clear that partnership with the major GDSs is critical to the delivery of a robust, stable and efficient platform that will digitally transform the booking environment.

Where do you see stumbling blocks?

Current NDC solutions bring their own challenges and impact our customers. Data acquisition, payment and reconciliation processes; servicing use cases; availability of content and consistency of display in OBTs; and end-to-end integration across all tools and channels all require extensive collaboration between all industry partners.

Most NDC news focuses on airline shopping and booking capabilities. For sure, some of these are available. And we understand that for airlines, offering the full scope of their content in an attractive way is key to differentiating their products and services in the marketplace.

For the sake of our clients and company, I hope our industry will push the agenda to bring NDC content and the new services it promises into an environment that allows for efficient, cost-effective shopping, booking and servicing across all content providers, booking channels and tools. That’s where there’s still an awful lot of work to be done. 

Broadly, we’ve identified the below challenges which can necessitate additional manual handling. Specifics depend on the individual airline’s or technology partner’s capabilities.

Changes, cancellations, refundsAlternative tools, manual processes and additional contact channels to the airline are required to manage some exchange use cases
Schedule changesManagement and communication of some airline schedule changes require some manual intervention
Corporate faresInconsistent displays of corporate fares
Ancillary contentManagement of ticketing documents (EMDs) both at time of original booking and during booking changes may require alternative tools and contact channels to the airline, as well as manual processes
PaymentLimitations in accepted forms of payment
Data and reportingLimitations in reporting data
User interface and displaysNDC content not consistently integrated with existing content sources limiting comparison shopping in online booking tools and agent desktops
InterliningNot possible to interline

As we invest in and develop our own proprietary shopping and servicing platforms, we’ll continue to work with all partners (airlines, GDSs and online booking tools) to develop, aggregate and deliver relevant NDC content — at scale.

What can we expect from BCD now and into 2023?

Working together with our technology partners will allow us to deliver much of the transformation NDC promises to bring. We’re continuing to invest significant time with these partners to inform and influence their strategies. Our goal is to ensure our corporate clients’ content and functionality needs are met across all channels. We’ll deliver further solutions at scale using GDS-based NDC solutions, starting with Air France/KLM this year. We’ll expand to include more airlines and regions into 2023.

Delivering on NDC’s transformative potential can’t happen in a vacuum. We’re addressing in a broader arena the industry challenges and gaps we encounter through our testing and development initiatives. As part of IATA’s NDC Global Travel Management Executive Council and Travel Management Company working parties, we’re helping leverage the power of an entire industry to create workable NDC solutions.

Our latest IATA Airline Retailing Maturity accreditation further demonstrates our commitment to staying at the forefront of the ongoing evolution in supporting airline retailing initiatives. 

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