Not since APD has a three letter acronym caused such a stir in the business travel industry. And those three letters? N, D and C, of course.
New Distribution Capability is a new business model proposed by IATA member airlines that – if approved by the US Department of Transport – will allow greater visibility of the airlines’ products at point of sale. Seats will no longer be distinguishable purely by price and carrier alone. Consumers will be able to compare class, seat type, service levels and ancillary costs, as well, in the same way that hotels are sourced and booked.
The introduction of greater visibility means that airlines will no longer compete on price and brand awareness, but rather on a more accurate like-for-like product basis. The travel industry understands the need for this change and agrees it is a good thing for the airline industry, the manager and the consumer.
However, the NDC proposition is also stirring up a cloud of controversy in the travel industry. Why? For two reasons. Firstly, IATA has excluded travel managers, travel agencies and trade organisations from strategy meetings. And secondly, because the new technology gives airlines the capability to ask buyers to input demographic passenger profiles pre-search.
All airlines already hold extensive amounts of passenger data, which is used in targeted marketing campaigns, competitive intelligence and to establish the viability of new routes, which is essential for opening up emerging markets.
But none asks for that information pre-search. Doing this means the airlines could – note, not would – discriminate based on the pre-search data, raise prices artificially and charge higher prices to those travellers they feel are able to pay more: corporates. And in a time when managing costs is still very high on the travel managers’ agenda, the possibility of paying more – and artificially so – is understandably grating.
By David Chapple
David Chapple is event director of the Business Travel Show, which takes place each February in London. Find out more at www.businesstravelshow.com. Comment on this blog below, or contact David on Twitter @btshowlondon