Qantas is introducing an agency booking channel from August as part of its digital strategy.
The Australia-based airline says agents that do not register for the service could incur a channel fee. It says key agency partners are already on board including Flight Centre, Carlson Wagonlit and Expedia Group.
According to Qantas, the channel will provide agents with access to “the widest range of fares, products and information.”
The carrier also says new content that is not available in current indirect booking channels will be accessible via the Qantas Channel.
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Last May, the airline unveiled its Qantas Distribution Platform which was developed using IATA’s New Distribution Capability technology standard.
The thinking behind the QDP, which was developed with Sabre-owned Farelogix, was to provide the indirect channel with the same products and services the carrier displays on its website.
Qantas chief customer officer Vanessa Hudson says: “The digital environment has changed the way we need to work with our trade partners, and our new technology paired with this new agreement will support us on the journey to delivering our vision for our mutual customers.”
She adds that the carrier has watched on while other airlines have adopted new distribution model and that Qantas believes “collaboration will deliver the best outcomes.”
Hudson is likely referring to moves to introduce a surcharge on bookings via non-NDC driven channels from airlines including Lufthansa, followed by British Airways and Air France/KLM.
Bigger NDC picture
Airlines have come up against criticism for using the NDC development to change the commercial distribution model.
Lufthansa was the first to unveil its new commercial structure in mid-2015 with a surcharge added to GDS bookings.
Most recently, the Germany-based carrier said it was removing its “light” fares from the Global Distribution Systems.
The carrier also said it would continue to offer incentives and benefits to encourage booking in the NDC channel.
Amadeus, Sabre and Travelport are partnering with Qantas to open up the channel to agents globally.
A statement from Amadeus, which also provides its Altea passenger service system to Qantas, says that agency partners will still have the benefit of “the efficiencies and servicing capabilities of the Amadeus system when booking, changing or cancelling trips.”
While simple NDC-based bookings are already happening, the servicing elements and workflow elements for travel agents are still a concern.
Qantas is one of the 21 carriers signed up to IATA’s leaderboard which pledges to have 20% of sales driven by the NDC by 2020.