Air Canada Poised To Transform Travel Distribution
When Air Canada unveiled details of its New Distribution Capabilities (NDC) program in Toronto on April 18, it set itself on a course to transform travel distribution with a program that features new benefits, expanded content and additional support for travel agencies and travel buyers.
It is a program that it has designed to provide a competitive alternative to legacy distribution, giving agents access to Air Canada inventory, fares, ancillary services, ticketing, and digital products.
For buyers and travellers, NDC technology means their preferred agencies can now offer a broader range of Air Canada travel options and services at the best possible prices, improving competitiveness and the customer experience.
Mark Nasr, Senior Vice President, Products, Marketing & eCommerce at Air Canada, told an April 18 briefing in Toronto that: “We want to work together with agencies to ensure the full range of Air Canada content and fares are available to them.”
Nasr continued: “From local independent agencies to large corporate travel management companies, our travel trade partners were, are, and will always be crucial to Air Canada’s commercial success.”
He explained that: “As we continue to introduce new products and revenue management capabilities, it’s incumbent on us to provide the travel trade with better technology so that they are well prepared for the future.”
And Nasr added: “The transition to modern distribution enables delivery of the full range of content and fares that Air Canada provides, as well as access to the many upcoming products and services that will improve travel.”
Air Canada has been making significant efforts to keep its agency partners well-informed on its implementation of NDC. The company has conducted extensive third-party research — learning first-hand what agencies and customers want from airlines — and its program design addresses key requirements, including on inventory, revenue, functional capabilities, and transition costs.
Along with making available the most comprehensive Air Canada content, the airline’s improved NDC program offers an efficient shopping experience for retail fare products and the elimination of select debit memos.
Continuous pricing, as well as the addition of Flight Pass, is planned for 2023. Upgraded service and support levels include dedicated business and IT teams, 24/7 monitoring and near real time system status.
Additional servicing automation options and order change notifications are also slated for this year.
Lisa M. Pierce, Vice President, Global Sales & Air Canada Vacations at Air Canada, made it clear that: “We recognize the time and effort required by agency partners to transition to new technology and we are committed to supporting them. Their feedback to-date has served to shape our implementation plans.”
Pierce continued: “For example, our focus on introducing new content on NDC rather than removing existing content from GDS EDIFACT channels is a direct result of agency partner inputs. We will continue to actively listen to feedback, and we’ll use it to shape our policies and roadmap of future products and features enabled by NDC.”
For those of you asking ‘why’ Air Canada is doing this now, Keith Wallis, Senior Director, Distribution & Payments, pointed out that the biggest challenge for Air Canada is the “growing gap between what we can offer and sell to our customers and what we can provide our agency partners in terms of tools to sell Air Canada products.”
Wallis, who is well-versed in the world of NDC, is quick to point out that for Air Canada, NDC is a way to elevate the customer experience and for agents it will provide access to the most comprehensive Air Canada content; cost servicing capabilities; and increased service and support levels.
Air Canada will offer four flexible options for NDC access, each designed to suit different agency business models – ranging from API integration and a free web-based tool, to a growing catalogue of certified technology providers and a GDS-based solution.
As part of Air Canada’s modernization efforts, a Distribution Cost Recovery (DCR) will be introduced to address the high expense of legacy models.
This DCR will be applicable to all tickets issued globally via GDS EDIFACT channels effective June 14, 2023.
The DCR does not apply to bookings made via any of Air Canada’s NDC connection options including NDC-sourced content in a GDS solution, as well as through Air Canada’s other direct booking channels such as aircanada.com, aircanada.com/agents, Air Canada for Business, and the Air Canada mobile app, or group bookings.
Additional content immediately available on NDC technology includes domestic Basic fares, with best available seat inventory and discounted ancillary pricing becoming available on June 14, 2023.
An NDC coupon incentive will also be introduced beginning June 14, 2023, to support agency transition and will apply to eligible NDC bookings made directly with an Air Canada NDC API connection or via select NDC certified technology partners.
Communication will be key to the program and Air Canada made it clear that it’s committed to providing information, support, and transparent communications including an NDC hub at aircanada.com/ndc with up-to-date program information. Training opportunities, interactive webinars and regular email communication will also be available.
Already, many of the carrier’s key agency partners have begun implementing NDC connectivity, including Priceline, Flight Centre, Fareportal, Flighthub, Hopper, Maritime Travel, Skylink Voyages and Travix.
These and other early partners have the opportunity to drive requirements and new functionality as the program develops.
Air Canada will add NDC features and offerings as new products and services become available.
As for the big takeaway, Mark Nasr made it clear a number of times during the briefing that Air Canada’s approach is all about ‘addition, not subtraction’ with the goal of making the move to NDC as smooth a transition as possible for everyone involved.
Go to www.aircanada.com/ndc for more.
Caption for Photo
Seen here, from l to r, are Keith Wallis, Lisa Pierce and Mark Nasr.