Travel Leaders Corporate this week began making New Distribution Capability-based booking available to clients at no cost, said Michael Boult, the travel management company's president.
The decision to provide NDC fares comes after the TMC's previous "wait-and-see approach" in the wake of American Airlines' removal of some fares from traditional EDIFACT channels earlier this year. Offering the content is the "easy" part, but servicing has proved another story, Boult said.
"We wanted to figure out what it would mean, how the plumbing would work or not work," he said.
Since then, Travel Leaders has been "asking questions and testing" and getting its customers ready in the form of webinars and a frequently-asked-questions page. As of Tuesday, it opened access to the fares, giving clients the ability to opt out if they wish.
NDC content offered currently is "mostly American [Airlines]" as well as some from United Airlines and some international carriers, with more on the way as airlines make it available, Boult said. It is accessing the content primarily through global distribution system connections as well as from some aggregators, Boult said.
As Travel Leaders turned on the content this week, Boult acknowledged that the "plumbing isn't perfect" still. In the FAQ, for example, the TMC notes that canceled nonrefundable NDC tickets cannot be exchanged for EDIFACT tickets and vice versa, with the expectation that it will be "a future enhancement by the airlines."
"If you're waiting for perfection, it's not going to happen," Boult said. "NDC is happening, it will be a permanent part of our lives, so we best get on with it, figure it out and make sure the benefits are extended to travelers and customers."
Travel Leaders estimates that up to 70% of traditional fare content from some airlines will be removed from EDIFACT channels within the next six months, as airlines have given guidance that they will be removing EDIFACT content on an "ongoing basis," Boult said. Savvy travelers will notice the lower fares on airline direct channels are not available if they are not accessing NDC fares in their corporate program, which puts pressure on travel managers, he said.
"We don't know the long-term issue, whether those savings are going to be there just for this initial period of time, but it would be wrong for us not to provide that," Boult said.
With the initial decision not to add any charges for NDC bookings, Travel Leaders "has no plans to charge our customers incrementally more" for NDC content even though it "won't be beneficial to us in the short term," Boult said.
"We think it's the right thing to do, so we're going to take it on the chin," he said.
The Company Dime first reported Travel Leaders Corporate's plans.
Source: Business Travel News