IRVING, Texas -- American Airlines will pay travel management companies (TMCs) a $2-per-segment incentive if they book through a New Distribution Capability-supported connection to the carrier. 

The incentive program, which American announced at its NDC Summit here, already has a few takers. But it was also greeted with skepticism from some travel agents who attended the conference Friday. 

American announced the incentive program as it unveiled an enhancement to its NDC capabilities. The company achieved IATA's Level 3 NDC certification this month, the highest that is awarded, and is now offering NDC-supported product bundles within corporate booking sites.

American vice president of sales and distribution strategy Cory Garner emphasized that participation in the program will be optional, and he said that American has no plans to implement a GDS surcharge, as Lufthansa did two years ago and British Airways and Iberia will do in November. To participate, TMCs and agencies would have to connect to American through its own certified NDC-enabled solution, or through one that is developed by a third party, such as a travel aggregator. 

"We're going to work with everybody who wants to do this at whatever speed they want to do it, third parties included," Garner said. 

He added that if GDSs can develop the proper technology, American would even pay the incentive for NDC-supported GDS bookings. 

The TMCs HRG and Frosch have already said they will integrate with the American NDC connection.  

So have the aggregators AirGateway and Travelfusion, as well as corporate travel booking company Concur. 

Sridhar Balaji, executive vice president of engineering at Frosch, urged agencies to forge ahead with NDC implementation during a panel at the summit Friday. 

"Don't spend all your time with strategy getting buried in where you want to go. Just start," he said. 

But as a group, agents at the summit weren't fully sold on NDC or the American incentive program. 

In a survey at the end of the general session, 35 respondents said that they have already begun implementing NDC, 33 said they were convinced that they should and 32 said they weren't convinced. 

Rose Stratford, executive vice president of global supplier relations for Atlanta-based BCD Travel, said the $2 booking fee per segment incentive wouldn't be enough to motivate her company to develop an NDC connection to American since the company would still have to fare shop through the GDSs. Such searches, she said, cost $3.75. 

Philip Davies, president of the Santa Monica-based US1 Travel, said a factor that he would have to consider is whether using an NDC connection for American bookings would lead them to fall short of their annual incentive performance threshold with Sabre. 

"That would be a concern," Davies said.

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI