Concerns that the travel industry was not yet ready for full adoption of New Distribution Capability (NDC) content were pushed aside this week when American Airlines officially started rolling out NDC content on Sabre on Monday.
Sabre has long advertised NDC as the next evolution in travel booking and the move this week means that the evolution is well underway—agencies connected to Sabre are now able to book and service American’s NDC content, including paid seats, through Sabre Red 360 and GetThere. Sabre users are able to choose enhanced offers from American including Main Select and Flagship Business Plus fares, along with ancillary products.
Still, concerns from the travel industry have not abated. The worries had been that because not all agencies are fully connected to American NDC content and that American would shift most of its cheapest fares to direct channels, away from GDSs, agencies would be forced to book direct with American.
The industry pushback has been led by the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), which has been pushing American to wait until the end of 2023 to roll it out.
ASTA’s warning was that American’s adoption of NDC, which has been the subject of concerns from travel management companies and ASTA members, would make over 40% of its fares accessible only through NDC-ready channels, all while major TMCs, GDSs, and third-party booking partners remain unprepared for such a move.
ASTA president and CEO Zane Kerby called the move a “sudden bullying of valuable distribution partners.”
“It appears that AA has made a strategic decision to forsake short-term profits to achieve a stronger, anti-competitive business position long-term, one secured by denying access to fare inventory. It inevitably follows that withholding such a substantial portion of its fares from critical independent distribution channels will have a serious negative impact on the traveling public, corporate travelers in particular,” Kerby said in a statement in early March.
ASTA has since sent a letter to both the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Transportation explaining its concerns about NDC adoption, but its efforts did not stop American from rolling out NDC content on Monday.
According to a message from Sabre to its partners, seen by TMR this week, United Airlines will be the next major airline to launch its NDC offerings. Sabre told partners that it expects United to launch on April 10, just a week after American.
ASTA is asking its members to help document any time they experience negative effects of American's adoption. ASTA’s Mark Meader, SVP Industry Affairs, and Peter Lobasso, SVP & General Counsel, will be monitoring an email address created specifically for these issues (NDC.Impact@asta.org). Both members and non-members can help ASTA make its case to the DOT and DOJ by sending issues there.