Something we hear more and more from airlines, from customers and from prospects: “NDC bundling.” As we’ve done with NDC readiness, the cost of NDC (related to this bundling topic) and benefits of NDC, let’s dig into what NDC bundles or bundled fares are and how they might – or might not – fit into your travel program.
First, these “NDC bundles” are fares (most commonly Economy class fares, but sometimes premium cabin) coupled with one or more ancillary product like a pre-paid checked bags, extra legroom seats, in-flight wifi, airport security fast-passes, airport club passes and more. These bundles exist today: American Airlines offers Main Plus fares (economy ticket, early boarding, Main Cabin Extra extra legroom seat, and an extra checked bag) and Main Select fares (Main Plus, and also refundable), and United offers a wide array of bundles along with fares. So a traveler going to a tradeshow can book a bundled fare via NDC that gives them the Economy fare plus a prepaid checked bag for their tradeshow case. One nice thing about these bundles via NDC: because NDC allows travelers to identify themselves by their loyalty numbers, airlines can recognize travelers who are entitled to certain ancillaries (say our tradeshow traveler is a loyalty program premier member who gets free checked bags) and not offer those products to those customers.
(AmTrav recently had a hundred travelers who needed pre-paid bags, it would’ve been a lot easier for AmTrav and the customer if those airlines had offered NDC bundles!)
For companies who need to pay for travelers’ ancillaries, these bundles can actually streamline payment, reporting and savings on these ancillary products. Bundles allow companies to securely pay for needed ancillaries like checked bags and wifi at booking on the company card. Likewise bundles sold in the corporate tool mean that companies can see ancillary product details in the company’s travel reporting and expense systems, enabling accurate reporting and analysis of airline ancillary product spend and faster, more accurate expense reports for travelers. Further, savvy companies can negotiate discounts on ancillary products with airlines, like Visa Sr. Director of Global Travel & Events Sourcing Kim Hamer, Business Travel News’ 2022 Travel Manager of the Year.
And what if you don’t need or don’t want these products? Easy: use your travel policy.* Smart travel policies already allow you to police aircraft cabin, fares, lowest logical controls, paid seat prices and more, this is just one extra policy control. With this policy control you can allow checked bags and wifi bundles to be pre-puchased but not bundles with airport club passes, or set limits on how much can be spent for an extra legroom bundle. Not only can you limit what’s allowed, you can track your policy compliance, apply pre-trip approvals to approve exceptions when the business need is there.
So it turns out that NDC bundles are pretty simple: either you have a business need and bundles let you securely and confidently meet that business need, or you don’t have a business need and use policy to control bundle access the same way you use policy to control aircraft cabin selection.
*There’s another approach: select an online booking tool that displays no ancillaries (usually because it can’t technologically). Of course, if you do ever want to securely purchase and control ancillaries, that no-ancillaries tool is no good because it can neither sell the ancillary products nor apply your policy to ancillary purchases.