Lufthansa is expecting bookings via its NDC channels to gain momentum in the next year as an increasing number of travel agencies sign up.
The Germany-based airline claims it has about 70 companies in the pipeline including some online travel agencies and consolidators but mostly traditional travel agencies.
Lufthansa senior director of sales for the UK, Ireland and Iceland, Andreas Koester estimates the airline currently receives approximately 1,000 bookings per month, or about 1% of bookings in the UK via NDC channels.
That has risen from a couple of hundred per month in the first few months of 2017 although that figure also includes some peak ski season bookings.
Since August 2018, the airline has seen a 300% increase in bookings attributed to already connected and newly connected agencies.
Cynics might say that doesn’t amount to a great deal of progress in the three years since Lufthansa announced its plans to levy a €16 Distribution Cost Charge (DCC) on bookings made via global distributon systems.
Koester, who was giving an update on NDC in the UK, says that it’s not only about connecting agents but offering “incentives and benefits” in the NDC channel to encourage more bookings.
He points to various initiatives such as “NDC best offer fares” which amount to a discount of about £30 and says the airline will continue to differentiate pricing between NDC and non-NDC fares.
Part of the plan is to remove the “light” tariff, one of the most popular fares for continental traffic, from the GDS for flights for UK regional flights from Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh, providing a price advantage of up to £63 in the NDC channel compared to a classic fare.
Koester points out however that the classic fare does include a checked bag. The light fare will continue to be available via the carrier’s website and SPRK Agent portal.
A further initiative for next year is “continuous pricing” which kicks in when fares in the GDS close out meaning less of a jump to the next fare band.
UK travel management firms Click Travel and Gray Dawes which have both developed direct connections to Lufthansa also gave an update on their progress.
Click was one of the first UK TMCs to announce its partnership with the airline, alongside Clarity, in early 2017.
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At the time, the agencies expressed concern about fragmentation with TMCs not able to use the same technology for all airlines because different flavors of NDC were being developed.
Fast forward two years and both Click and Gray Dawes says handling these kind of connections is just part of what they do.
According to Click Travel boss Jill Palmer 42% of all its flights now go through one of its direct connects while for Lufthansa it is 70%.
She adds that four out of its top 10 selling airlines now use NDC with a further three to be added in 2019.
Gray Dawes Group commercial director David Bishop says the TMC has carried out work to provide a “slick booking experience” for bookers and travelers.
He says that with the “retailing revolution” the company is looking beyond traditional online booking tools at how it might incorporate channels such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp in the future.
Part of that is ensuring it can provide easy to consumer information on the various fare families from carriers such as Lufthansa and going forward, the ability to compare those fare families between airlines.
Despite all these developments NDC still has a way to go with initiatives such as IATA’s airline leaderboard - about 20 airlines committing to have 20% of indirect transactions via an NDC-driven API by the end of 2020 - driving adoption.
Both Click Travel and Gray Dawes feel there is still a role for the GDSs in their continued role as content aggregators as well as providing NDC content as it’s unlikely all 220 IATA airlines will develop NDC connections.