As American Airlines Begins Use of NDC, ASTA Fears “Widespread Consumer Harm”

American Airlines on April 3 implemented the use of its New Distribution Capability (NDC), which the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) fears will cause “widespread disruption and consumer harm.” To help its case with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and Department of Justice (DOJ), as well as their Senate and House committees, in having American postpone its NDC launch, ASTA has created an email address where advisors can share how American’s transition is negatively affecting their clients (primarily) and their businesses (secondarily).

By way of background, ASTA reached out to American both privately and publicly—including a letter from President and CEO Zane Kerby in early March. More recently, Kerby sent letters to Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, and to Jonathan Kanter, Assistant Attorney General, Antitrust Division, and Amanda N. Liskamm, Director, Consumer Protection Branch, both of the DOJ, sharing ASTA’s concerns of the NDC implementation. In these letters, he says that top concerns include consumers’ ability to perform comparison shopping, agencies’ abilities to service and exchange tickets, and consumers not being able to utilize flight credits for past canceled, unused or partially used tickets, among others.

These disruptions will likely be caused by the fact that many of travel management companies, GDSs and third-party technology partners were not fully prepared to facilitate NDC implementation by its launch. “Without key front, mid- and back-office travel fulfilment systems ready and able to fully process NDC transactions, significant disruptions to shopping, booking and servicing tickets are inevitable,” Kerby said in his letter to the DOJ.

In his letter to the DOT, Kerby also noted that making changes to AA reservations and tracking canceled (unused) tickets could also present substantial new challenges. Exchanging tickets when travel plans change could be further complicated by the fact that NDC channel-issued tickets will not be interchangeable with EDIFACT channel-issued tickets. “Collectively, this alone is likely to cost travelers millions of dollars annually,” he said.

“While much of this may seem somewhat speculative or indefinite, our members and others in the industry are convinced that the impact of AA’s actions will be both real and very disruptive," Kerby added. 

“For these reasons and others, on March 8, ASTA publicly called on AA to postpone NDC implementation through the end of 2023. With no official response to our public (and previous private) requests, only trade press quotes indicating no change of plans, we feel compelled to bring this issue to the Department’s attention,” he said.

In an update to its members, ASTA noted, “Inviting the government into this dispute is not a step we take lightly, but after hearing from many of you on the scale of disruption coming, we felt compelled to do so. That said, the path forward is to make a consumer-focused case to policymakers and prevent additional harm to your businesses and clients.”

Advisors with information to share, can do so via [email protected].

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