• Financial incentives
travel agents &
• The content & service
• Duty of care benefits
American Airlines sales
& distribution strategy
VP Cory Garner talks:
HAS ANY OTHER AIRLINE TAKEN THIS APPROACH?
As far as we know, we’re the first airline to answer
the question specifically of what we’re willing to
pay for an NDC connection.
DO YOU HAVE ANYONE SIGNED UP YET?
We’ve been doing NDC for quite a long time, about
10 years, and we have about 50 travel agencies globally that are working with us. It accounts for about
10 percent of our U.S.-point-of-sale travel agency
volume. As far as how many agencies are working with us under the new incentive program, the
answer is zero as of today. We have very few requirements for a travel agency to get into the program. The major one is they use a content source
that is Level 3-certified with American by IATA.
We don’t have any third parties that are Level 3-
certified with us today, but we ourselves are Level 3-
certified and it is a relatively easy process for a third-party technology to get certified with IATA.
We expect those third-party technology companies
that have a full end-to-end connection with us via NDC
will now go through the IATA certification process and
become approved technology providers to travel agencies, and the travel agencies themselves will choose
whether they want to participate in the program at all.
If they choose to, what’s the best way to integrate with
us? There are three ways to do that. One is by integrating with our NDC connection directly, using in-house
technology. The second is using a third-party NDC
content aggregator like Travelfusion. The third is via a
GDS to the extent that the GDS decides they want to
offer a Level 3 connection to American.
AND NO GDSS ARE DOING THAT AS OF TODAY?
That doesn’t exist either, but we started working
with the GDSs about five years ago and we’ve made
progress with each of them. We’ve implemented
our paid seat assignment products through each of
the GDSs using NDC.
WHAT EXACTLY DOES LEVEL 3 CERTIFICATION ENTAIL?
IATA administers a certification process for anybody
who uses NDC. They certify parties in the role that they
play in the NDC chain. In NDC parlance, the roles that
are possible are the roles of an airline, a travel agency
and an aggregator. IATA has certification processes for
each of those roles. Within each role ... the lowest level
is NDC capability, meaning they are capable of using
at least one NDC message. The next level is Level 1,
which is where many of our GDS partners are with us.
That means you’re capable of doing ancillaries. Level
2 means you’re capable of doing shopping of fares and
ancillaries. Level 3 means you’re capable of a full end-to-end NDC connection. For American to get the benefit out of this NDC incentive program that we need, we
need a full, end-to-end NDC connection. That’s how
we offer the enhanced content and functionality that
makes up the second part of our value proposition.
HAVE YOU ESTABLISHED A TIME FRAME IN WHICH
AGENCIES MUST ADOPT IN ORDER TO QUALIFY
We want every travel agency to make its own decision.
If they decide to pursue it with us, we want them to
make their own decision about the time line in which
they do so and the amount of volume they wish to
send our direction. We view this as a journey. It’s not
a GDS negotiation strategy. It’s much more impor-
tant than that. What we care about is [that] as many
agencies as possible want to make progress with us on
technology because that’s what will end up benefiting
our mutual customers and the travel agencies.
WHAT BENEFITS WILL A LEVEL 3 CONNECTION BRING
ON THE CONTENT SIDE?
We announced the tip of the iceberg when it comes
to content functionality: that a travel agency with a
Level 3 connection to American would be able to
provide the ability to supply bundles of products
and services with a fare customized to a corporation or a set of travelers within the corporation. An
example would be the C-suite at a corporation: The
travel manager may not want to bundle services for
all travelers, but they might want a bundle of high-touch services for their C-suite. Through a Level 3
NDC connection, we can supply that, which would
be a first from an airline.
The second area of content functionality we announced is seamless waiver and favor integration.
In our corporate relationships, we grant waivers
and favors according to the customer. In today’s
world, to get access to those waivers and favors,
the corporate client and TMC have to punch out of
their existing systems or log into a separate website
or get with American to have them fulfill them. Using an NDC connection, we can pump that capability directly into the TMC system and the corporate booking tool, so the travelers themselves can
self-serve when it comes to fulfilling waivers and
favors, as can the TMC.
The third piece is enhanced duty of care capabilities. There is a misperception that when a booking
is processed via NDC, the booking data goes down
a black hole and is not easily reported, making it
hard for a corporate manager to track travelers.
That’s not the case. With NDC, we can report all
of the same data about bookings and tickets back
to the TMC and third-party duty of care systems,
and because American has the best data about its
own operations, we can bring data to the table that
hasn’t been broadly available up to this point. An
example would be over-water positioning of our
flights. It’s not widely known where our aircraft
are when they cross the Pacific or Atlantic oceans,
but we have that data and can bring it to the table.
Another is confirmation whether a customer has
boarded a plane or not. Duty of care systems [to-day] rely upon booking data to determine whether
a customer was booked on a flight, but it doesn’t
confirm whether a person is on a flight. We have
that data and can supply it via NDC.
HAVE YOU SET ANY INTERNAL GOALS REGARDING
NDC ADOPTION AMONG YOUR PARTNERS?
We'd like to have a Level 3 NDC connection behind
all of our travel agencies because it makes American more competitive versus other airlines. We're
not setting any deadlines on ourselves or anyone
else because the important part is that the industry
takes a view that this is going to be an evolution and
[stakeholders] have an attitude of being willing to
experiment for the sake of driving things forward.
“It’s not a GDS
strategy. It’s much
than that. What
we care about is
[that] as many
possible want to
with us on
CONTINUED FROM FRONT PG
DISTRIBUTION EDITOR JAY BOEHMER Distribution