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Notable Quotables and Quips from the 2016 IATA World Passenger Symposium

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I thought I would summarize a few of the concepts and themes I heard throughout the recent IATA WPS held in Dubai. I didn’t take copious notes so quotes are not exact and quotations are for emphasis only.

  • “Legacy airline systems and GDS technology just can’t keep up with the innovation required by airlines” – various airline executives on panels and delivering presentations.

Comment – Frankly, I can’t keep up with how many times I have heard this over the last few years. It’s clear that the legacy players are not going to make the required investments regardless of how often the airlines complain. It is probably time for the airlines to stop waiting for legacy providers to deliver, and consider taking a different approach to get what they need. Or at least, Ask the Question!

  • “NDC is just not happening fast enough.” – various airline executives.

Comment – There are two root causes that explain the slow pace of NDC. First and foremost, the PSS and GDS providers (yes I refer to the handful of powerful companies that control the lion’s share of airline distribution technology) don’t really want NDC to happen, despite their countless public proclamations of NDC support at prior WPS events. If the GDS/PSS community wanted NDC, we would see evidence of rapid, game changing innovation and unfettered attention to airline and agency unmet requirements. Actions always speak louder than words.

The second cause of slow NDC adoption is the legacy procurement processes of many airlines. Even airlines that say they want to move fast and invest in new NDC-aligned technology solutions such as their own offer creation engines (shopping, merchandising, availability, etc.) are often stymied by impossibly long procurement processes (RFIs/RFPs) that can easily take more than a year to complete. And that assumes the business people involved in the “RFP Marathon” stay in those positions long enough to see it through. In our experience, RFPs take just over a year at best – often resulting in outdated requirements by the time a decision is made. In addition, 50% of the time, a key stakeholder leaves, and this further paralyzes the process for another 6-12 months. (And meanwhile, how many millions has the airline lost in missed opportunities for more revenue and happy customers? It’s time to Ask that Question!

  • “Corporate buyers need access to airline ancillary services & content” – various airline executives, a couple of corporate buyers and consultants, and even a few travel agency representatives.

Comment – They sure do! The last time I checked, almost 80% of corporate bookings were transacted via a corporate booking tool. I can honestly say that after more than three years into NDC that I still can’t point to one corporate booking tool that is supporting airline ancillary services and content in a meaningful way. Why? Airline content finding its way to a corporate booking tool is controlled by the GDSs. Refer to Notable Quote #1.

In summary, these are the common themes:

  • Airlines need to invest in innovation and use faster procurement processes.
  • The PSS and the GDS need to put up or get out of the way.
  • And the corporate booking tools need to be free to take content directly from the airline’s NDC API.

We will continue to invite all of you to Ask the Question—specifically the tough questions.

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