In just a couple weeks’ time, American Airlines plans to relocate over 40 percent of its fares to NDC (New Distribution Capability)-ready channels (i.e., starting April 2023). Withholding such a substantial portion of fares from independent distribution channels “will have a serious negative impact on the traveling public,” according to American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) President and CEO Zane Kerby.
In addition to his recent statement, select groups of the largest ASTA members, travel management companies (TMCs) and corporate travel buyers met with American on February 15 and March 3 to share their concerns about the NDC implementation, as many of their questions remain unanswered. Notably, “most of the key players, including TMCs, global distribution systems (GDSs) and third-party booking technology partners such as Concur have stated that they will not be fully prepared to facilitate NDC implementation by April. Without significant and key front-, mid- and back-office travel fulfillment systems ready and able to fully process NDC transactions, significant disruptions to shopping and booking, including ticketing, refunds and re-ticketing are inevitable,” said Kerby.
He added: “Beyond the unproven technology piece of the puzzle, processes that do not currently exist for servicing NDC bookings will need to be developed, tested, and implemented. The airlines have been working on NDC for over a decade, but this sudden bullying of valuable distribution partners into breakneck-speed implementation won’t serve our shared customers.”
Kerby slammed American, saying, “It appears that AA has made a strategic decision to forsake short-term profits to achieve a stronger, anticompetitive business position long-term, one secured by denying access to fare inventory.” He also said that the Department of Transportation (DOT) may want to investigate the consequences of the airline’s actions “should it continue down its intended path”—especially after it—and other airlines during the pandemic—received $54 billion in public grants to maintain operation, still “sitting on millions in undistributed refunds.”