After all the brouhaha over how airlines’ ancillary products should be sold over the last couple of years, a leading travel tech consultant said one fact has emerged – the realization that merchandising has to happen on the agency desktop.
That fact is evidenced by agreements signed by American Airlines with both Travelport and Amadeus to link via the carrier’s API, according to Norm Rose, president of Travel Tech Consulting. He called these agreements “watershed events” for the travel industry.
“A common XML standard is inevitable,” he said.
Goal of NDC
That common standard is the goal of IATA’s New Distribution Capability. Both Amadeus and Travelport have tried to put some distance between themselves and NDC, saying they approve of standards but they believe NDC leaves too many questions unanswered.
Nevertheless, since American’s API was developed by Farelogix, whose schema was selected to form the basis of the NDC standard, the new GDS connections will be de facto NDC-compliant.
New role for agents?
The question now becomes: What’s next for travel agents?
“My concern is that it changes the role of the travel agent, and I’m not sure how it will go,” Rose said. He noted that the evaluation of frontline agents, particularly in the corporate sector, has always centered on “How many tickets can you crank out? How fast are you?”
Merchandising will almost certainly make their jobs more complex, Rose said. “Agents will have to become salespeople,” he said. “That changes their role. It also changes the economics.”
He said that if, for example, an airline responds to a request with an offer for early boarding for $10 or a special on inflight Wi-Fi, “is that going to affect productivity?”
The airlines are “not specific enough on how they’re going to sell these things,” he said. “We’re in a new world – a different world.”