TravelPulse Canada had the opportunity to sit down with Air Canada senior management this week as the company provided a detailed update on the rollout of its New Distribution Capabilities (NDC) program.
AC says the NDC program will offer new benefits, expanded content and additional trade support for agencies and travel buyers. The airline says the program will provide a competitive alternative to legacy distribution, giving agents access to the full range of Air Canada inventory, fares, ancillary services, ticketing, and digital products.
For buyers and travellers, AC says NDC technology means that preferred agencies can now offer a broader range of travel options and services at the best possible prices, improving competitiveness and the customer experience.
“From local independent agencies to large corporate travel management companies, our travel trade partners were, are, and will always be crucial to Air Canada’s commercial success. As we continue to introduce new products and revenue management capabilities, it’s incumbent on us to provide the travel trade with better technology so that they are well prepared for the future,” said Mark Nasr, SVP, Products, Marketing & eCommerce.
“The transition to modern distribution enables delivery of the full range of content and fares that Air Canada provides, as well as access to the many upcoming products and services that will improve travel.”
However, segment count contracts from traditional GDS platforms have always been a key revenue driver for agencies. Achieving those agreed-upon segment count targets comes with meaningful incentives.
TravelPulse Canada asked Air Canada if incentives or remedies will be made available to agencies to offset any potential segment-driven revenue deficits for bookings processed via NDC.
The response: beginning June 14, any bookings made via Air Canada NDC, API connection, and select NDC certified technology partners will be awarded a $2.00 coupon. The incentive will remain in market until December 31, 2024. In addition, it appears that as part of the longer-term roll out, travel consultants will be able to drive incremental revenue toward their AC targets by selling ancillary products – something they have historically been unable to do.
As reported last week, Air Canada has announced the integration of its NDC platform into Amadeus (more here), with a June 14 implementation date. Discussions are underway with other GDS providers in that same regard, and the company says more announcements will come in future.
As part of its distribution modernization efforts, Air Canada says a Distribution Cost Recovery (DCR) fee in the range of US$20-$30 will be introduced to address the high expense of legacy models. The new DCR rate It will be applicable to all tickets issued globally via GDS EDIFACT channels effective June 14. The rates will vary by GDS provider and more information will be announced prior to June 14th.IThe DCR does not apply to bookings made via any of Air Canada’s NDC connection options including NDC-sourced content in a GDS solution, as well as through Air Canada’s other direct booking channels such as aircanada.com, aircanada.com/agents, Air Canada for Business, and the Air Canada mobile app, or group bookings.”
The DCR does not apply to bookings made via any of Air Canada’s NDC access methods, or through Air Canada’s other direct booking channels such as aircanada.com, aircanada.com/agents, Air Canada for Business, and the Air Canada mobile app.
Lisa Pierce, VP, Global Sales & Air Canada Vacations at Air Canada, said the company has worked diligently to ease any negative impact of the transition to NDC.
“We know what’s at stake for our partners in this transition, and we really have to get this right. We have had conversations and engagements around this change since last fall. We have talked to agency executives from all geographies around the world. We have had 28 in-depth interviews with agencies and forums with our corporate customers to inform on our approach. We had an advisory panel of online agencies, corporate TMCs and independent and leisure agencies. We have listened very carefully to their concerns. We are applying what we learned and taking steps to be thought leaders in distribution.”
Air Canada also says that it conducted extensive third-party research to hear first-hand what agencies and customers want from airlines, and its program design addresses key requirements, including on inventory, revenue, functional capabilities, and transition costs.
In addition to making available the most comprehensive Air Canada content, the airline’s enhanced NDC program offers an efficient shopping experience for retail fare products and the elimination of select debit memos.
Continuous pricing, as well as the addition of Flight Pass, is planned for 2023. Upgraded service and support levels include dedicated business and IT teams, 24/7 monitoring and near real-time system status. Additional servicing automation options and order change notifications are also slated for this year. For more information, travel agencies can visit the Air Canada NDC Hub.
“We recognize the time and effort required by agency partners to transition to new technology and we are committed to supporting them. Their feedback to-date has served to shape our implementation plans,” said Pierce.
“For example, our focus on introducing new content on NDC rather than removing existing content from GDS EDIFACT channels is a direct result of agency partner inputs. We will continue to actively listen to feedback, and we’ll use it to shape our policies and roadmap of future products and features enabled by NDC,” Pierce added.
AC says it will offer four flexible options for NDC access, each designed to suit different agency business models — ranging from API integration and a free web-based tool, to a growing catalogue of certified technology providers and a GDS-based solution.
Additional content immediately available through NDC technology includes domestic Basic fares, with best available seat inventory and discounted ancillary pricing becoming available on June 14. An NDC coupon incentive be introduced simultaneously to support agency transition and will apply to eligible NDC bookings made directly with an AC NDC API connection or via select NDC-certified technology partners.
Air Canada says many of its key agency partners have already begun implementing NDC connectivity, including Priceline, Flight Centre, Fareportal, Flighthub, Hopper, Maritime Travel, Skylink Voyages and Travix. The airline says these and other early partners have the opportunity to drive requirements and new functionality as the program develops.
Air Canada says it will add NDC features and offerings as new products and services become available. Training opportunities, interactive webinars and regular email communication will be available through the Air Canada NDC Hub.