AA Exec Seeks to Shed Light on Direct Connect, NDC

by Michèle McDonald
AA Exec Seeks to Shed Light on Direct Connect, NDC

An American Airlines executive sought to clarify the issues of his carrier’s direct-connect strategy and to IATA’s New Distribution Capability.

At UATP’s annual Airline Distribution Conference in Miami, Cory Garner, managing director of sales operations and distribution for American, compared the direct-connect strategy to the introduction of high-definition television a few years ago.

How it works
“If you use Verizon or AT&T U-verse, you may remember seeing rolls of multicolored fiber optic cable in your neighborhood,” he said. “That’s the pipe. You also have to have a box in your house.

“In the airline distribution analogy, Farelogix is the pipe,” he said. Farelogix is the developer of application programming interfaces (APIs) for several airlines, including American, Air Canada, Delta and US Airways.

The new pipe offers the ability to be more granular and nimble, Garner said.

Now that American has reached an agreement to link its API with Travelport’s in order to distribute richer content to travel agencies, Travelport’s subscribers  become a “neighborhood” where the airline version of high-def TV is available.

Travelport provides the “box” to agencies in its neighborhood to allow them to display “high-def” content.

Will agents like it?
Garner believes agents will like what they see, given his own excitement the first time he saw what the new connection will enable – fresh content, with real-time pricing.  

He said Travelport deserves credit for its forward thinking in this area.

“They’ve been building around the G2 Switchworks technology [purchased by Travelport in 2008]. Their Universal API is the box. They’ve been architecting their business for this for a long time.”

Garner said he hopes to do more deals like the Travelport arrangement.

Now, about NDC . . .
As for IATA’s New Distribution Capability, Garner described it as “nothing more than a language to allow two computers to speak to each other and have an interchange of data.”

It’s a matter of efficiency, he said. “Many airlines are using the same language. It’s not better when you have to learn 12 languages of the world in order to travel.”

NDC will permit the display of broader content that can be tailored to customer’s needs, Garner said.

‘Utter nonsense’
“I don’t think NDC changes the competitive dynamic,” he said. “The lowest fare is always available if you want to be successful. You need the back of the plane filled too.”

In response to arguments that NDC will allow airlines to charge higher prices, Garner said, “I don’t know of any airline that thinks this is a free pass to charge higher fares.”

Customers can provide their personal details or not, he said, but the notion that airlines will use those details against their customers is “utter nonsense.”

“People aren’t stupid. The first airline that does that will be the last to get anyone’s personal details.”

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