IATA’s (International Air Transport Association) New Distribution Capability (NDC) standard is currently the most misunderstood concept by many in the travel & tourism industry in India. NDC is not different than what LCCs are offering, which is giving access to ancillaries at a cost or free of cost. The only difference being an LCC showcases its own products, while the NDC standard will show what all IATA-accredited carriers have on offer for the traveller. For e.g. if the ticket cost to New York for a frequent flier on an airline is INR 50,000, whereas another carrier offers it at INR 48,000, in this case the fare offered by the former may be inclusive of all ancillaries, while the latter only includes the ticket charge and taxes.
Therefore, with NDC, travel agents will have an advantage to compare different options on a single platform, and work out the final cost with the ancillary services. This will enable travel agents to give a complete break up of the fare to their customers along with the cheapest fare. NDC is a less cumbersome and a useful tool for agents to work out the ticket modalities in a short span of time.
With the complete array of services available on the fingertips through NDC on a single screen from all airlines operating on the sector, the customer has the option to pre-book the services according to their budget. The travel agent will act as a consultant to the traveller, providing them information on the fare structure. However, the accuracy of information depends on the competency of the travel agent.
Times are changing and technology taking precedence over day to day operations is a reality. Therefore, it is wise for travel agents to view NDC as a way forward. While there are not many drawbacks, NDC will definitely lead to a competitive environment, with direct participation of the IATA-accredited airlines. However, it depends on airlines if they would cut the CRS if need be. On the other hand, the CRS has the option of getting connected with NDC directly. In the long run, maybe the agent will lose out on the CRS revenue, but there is scope to earn through selling ancillary services, cross selling and up selling besides ticketing. An agent needs to understand that for increasing bottom lines, it is important to adopt modern technology and its advancements.
Despite the change in the role to be played by a travel agent because of the standard, NDC should not be viewed as a threat to the GDS platform. In fact, it should be viewed as an opportunity to bring the inventory to a customer. With the NDC standard, a travel agent can create his own CRS, depending on finances and capability. NDC is the future of the industry and need of the hour for agents, because it is an opportunity for growth.