LEESBURG, Virginia -- The three major GDSs are inching
forward in their efforts to make New Distribution Capability (NDC) content
widely available to travel advisors. Still, due to a series of remaining
challenges, that won't happen for at least another six months, and it may take
well over a year.
That was the consensus of a panel comprised of executives
charged with NDC implementation at Amadeus, Travelport and Sabre. The panel was
part of the annual ARC Travel Connect conference.
"Over the last 12 to 18 months, the level of
collaboration has elevated to a point where we are starting to see progress
being made," said Stewart Alvarez, Amadeus' head of industry affairs for
the Americas. He expects momentum to pick up in the next six to 18 months.
So far, the GDSs are still in beta testing phases of their
NDC connections, working with select travel agency partners. Meanwhile, under
the IATA Leaderboard Initiative, 21 airlines have said they aspire to
accomplish 20% of indirect sales via an NDC-enabled connection by the end of next
year. Such sales could be through a GDS or direct connections with travel
At the IATA General Meeting in Seoul in June, IATA director
of distribution services Eric Leopold predicted that those airlines would meet
that goal. The GDSs are less optimistic.
Ian Heywood, Travelport's global head of new distribution,
said he thinks at least some airlines will reach that goal, but that the GDSs would
be the key to them getting there.
Cindy Tonnessen, Sabre's head of NDC, was less optimistic.
"I don't think we'll have the scale in place yet. That
will extend into 2021," she said.
The GDSs said that developing a NDC pipeline is a challenging
undertaking. A slide displayed by Heywood, for example, showed a 33-part roadmap
for developing its Trip Services NDC API.
"There is just so much that's got to be done. What you
are starting to see is solutions going out in the marketplace. They are basic,
and they are going to have to be built on and that will grow," he
The GDSs also said that they are waiting on the airlines in
part. Heywood noted that Travelport has had to wait on airlines to release
schemas for various components of the NDC integration.
Tonnessen showed a video of an NDC-enabled search query
response on the Sabre Red 360 desktop interface. The response populated slowly,
which Tonnessen said was due to technological shortcomings from airlines that
aren't ready for the number of users they will get.
Still, Alvarez said to expect continued progress toward
"We are putting in a significant effort to put
something out and build on it," he said.