By now, every travel manager has heard about the potential benefits of New Distribution Capability (NDC). But while NDC has been impossible to avoid in the news, it’s been just as elusive to find in operation. In fact, most TMCs are waiting for a Global Distribution System (GDS) to enable this technology for them.
We set out to enable the connections ourselves. Navan now provides NDC content from 10 European airlines to customers across the region. Recently, the teams enabled NDC content from Air France, KLM, British Airways, and Finnair to the content already available from Lufthansa Group — which itself contains Air Dolomiti, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Discover Airlines, Lufthansa, and Swiss International Air Lines.
The NDC buzz has reached a fever pitch in recent years, with airlines and travel solutions like Navan advocating loudly in its favour. And this is just the beginning of the trend, as more airlines embrace this new standard and more businesses seek price parity with direct channels.
By unlocking direct access to key flag carriers’ content, Navan customers benefit from cheaper fares and more travel options. And they can access those benefits today.
NDC is a new, standardised way of transmitting data that replaces an outdated protocol called EDIFACT, created in the 80s and still widely used today. In a way, EDIFACT and NDC are to airline content what standard definition and 4k are to video content. EDIFACT offers few opportunities to differentiate and often results in significant price gaps between fares on direct and legacy channels (which are commonly referred to as “traditional GDS” or “GDS EDIFACT”). But with NDC, airlines have more flexibility around pricing and offer management.
But here’s the thing: rolling out NDC is a complex task that requires investment and close collaboration with industry partners. That’s why, for many travel managers, NDC remains a mythological figure — talked about endlessly yet never actually experienced. For legacy TMCs, NDCs are a complex headache they’ve either chosen to push aside — or hope their inventory provider unlocks on their behalf.
But once the heavy lift is complete, the booking process is seamless. And customers of the few TMCs that have access to NDC content realise the considerable benefits that are making it a preferred distribution method for airlines.
When booking a business trip, travel managers hope their company’s booking tool finds all the same options as going direct. And of course, the finance team hopes those options come at the lowest price possible. But as airlines accelerate their transition to NDC, many fares are disappearing from legacy solutions, and price gaps with NDC or dot-com channels are increasing.
Navan recently compared fares for hundreds of flights across both NDC and traditional GDS channels. Based on those searches, we found that delaying NDC adoption will lead to:
To dive deeper into these findings and better understand the impact of NDC on a travel programme, access the study here: “NDC vs EDIFACT: the hidden cost your company is paying.”
When it comes to sourcing travel options, most TMCs rely on a single GDS. But it’s not the only option. Other providers exist, such as aggregators and direct connections with suppliers.
Here are three unique differentiators in Navan’s approach to content:
Content provider strategy: Most TMCs are either waiting for a GDS to enable NDC or waiting for the booking tools they resell to connect with new supply providers. Meanwhile, clients overpay for travel and risk leakage due to incomplete inventory.
Go-to-market plan: Announcements of new NDC connections are standard in the industry, but the devil is in the details. Releases are usually limited to a single country and rarely rolled out further. Great for marketing. Not customers’ budgets.
Content optimisation: Some TMCs focus on releasing as many connections as possible but compromise on the user experience. Essential features like changes and cancellations are not even possible online; customers need to contact an agent.
The bottom line: NDC may not always be a perfect solution, but right now, it can be a very effective tool for business travel. At Navan, the user always comes first, which is why we’ve prioritised NDC and are pushing forward to make this important technology a key part of our platform.
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