It has been a good year for managed travel customers who use AmTrav. Compared to their peers, they saved 9% with access to American Airlines’ lowest fares via our NDC connection, plus savings with Southwest’s and United’s lowest NDC fares too.
But 2023 has been rough for most other managed travel programs. Travelers increasingly say “I found a lower fare elsewhere” – and they’re right. Expedia, Google Flights, plus American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines websites really do have lower fares than most of the online booking tool.
What’s the difference between AmTrav and those other corporate travel platforms?
The difference is that AmTrav owns and invests in our own technology so we’re not dependent on third parties to build our technology for us. As a result, when airlines demand that we upgrade our technology to connect to them (and withhold the lowest fares from those who don’t upgrade), we can seamlessly implement NDC connections. That way our customers get the lowest fares with the control, visibility and service they need for their travel program.
Bonus: owning our own technology also allows us to build customer-pleasing products like online guest and meeting travel booking solutions and online change trips capabilities.
Corporate travel platforms – online booking tools, TMCs – that don’t own and invest in their own technology? They can’t do any of that. And their customers pay the price.
Which brings us to a recent Company Dime guest post by a retired travel industry executive. The retired executive claims: “Bottom line: Disaggregation is not consumer-friendly, nor is it efficient.”
“Disaggregation” refers to American and other airlines’ fare changes, offering lower fares via NDC. This is a flawed conclusion, and AmTrav is the proof.
American Airlines’ fare changes in 2023 spurred more progress on upgrading U.S. managed travel to NDC than was achieved in the last decade. NDC is already delivering personalized and value-added products: premium seat selection that GDSs can't offer, bundled and upgraded fares that travelers and companies value, servicing capabilities like automatically-applied waivers. And NDC has the potential to deliver far more.
The old technology that NDC replaces? Can’t do that. The old technology used to shop and sell flights – circa-1980s EDIFACT – is tapped out because, frankly, there’s only so much you can do with all-caps Courier New like this:
If you want customer-friendly personalization, value-add services, an Amazon or Netflix experience as the retired industry executive claims, you need something better than EDIFACT, and NDC is the best available alternative.
So what about efficiency? Transparency, comparison shopping?
The old EDIFACT technology delivers efficiency but not the transparency or comparison shopping that it claims: it efficiently puts an ultra low cost carrier basic fare for a 28” seat with no carry-on bag right next to a premium 34” extra legroom seat, as if they’re exactly the same. (Turns out there’s only so much you can do with all-caps Courier New!)
NDC? NDC supports efficiency, transparency and comparison shopping – AmTrav offers NDC fares right alongside any other fares. You won’t even know the difference. Nor should you. It’s our job to deal with that complexity. We show all of the possible fares organized by fare type with important details like seat pitch, wifi, seat maps and more.
But again: AmTrav is unique.
Legacy players who depend on single vendors to aggregate the world’s inventory for them are having a tough time figuring out how to deliver NDC flights and fares efficiently to enable transparency and comparison shopping. Because they’re not NDC-ready it’s painfullyinefficient for them, and their customers pay the price with missing and higher fares. But that’s a reflection on those legacy players who spent the last decade complaining instead of investing, not on NDC or airlines’ moves or disaggregation.
Airlines’ moves – American’s “disaggregation” – are spurring progress on NDC. Which is good for customers, delivering more customer-friendly value-add products, personalization, transparency, and efficiency with capable providers like AmTrav.
Full disclosure: there is a flavor of disintermediation that we don’t love. For our customers’ sake and for AmTrav’s sake, we hold out hope that American will enable AAdvantage Business points to be earned on NDC bookings – just like American closed a gap by enabling GDS unused tickets to be exchanged for new NDC tickets.