The pace of change

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BUNDLING UP

One of the key benefits that NDC was expected to deliver was access to specific fares, or bundles, that included the sort of extras corporates might require. While many buyers BTN spoke with said they were not getting bundles, they are in fact available in the market – or at least some version of them, according to suppliers and consultants. 

Finnair launched corporate bundles in February. “PrioFlex is addressing the key needs that we have heard corporates talk about – priority services from check-in, security, onboarding together, with the flexibility the traveller needs all in one package,” says Finnair VP of global sales and channel management Jenni Suomela. “We are able to offer this to our corporate customers via modern channels only.” 

United also offers 30 different bundles, with bundles meaning the ability to display a corporate negotiated fare with an ancillary included in the price point, says Anthony Toth. They’re available on “any NDC-enabled platform except the GDS”, he says. They also are available in Concur and Serko’s Zeno online booking tools via Travelfusion, and from Kayak for Business, Spotnana, Navan and AmTrav via a direct API.  

Toth says that there is also standalone merchandise displayed in a “mall format” for corporate customers using one of the merchandise-capable platforms and aggregators. Customers have the choice of either showing United bundles or standalone merchandise, but they generally prefer the latter, he says.  

The system can read entitlements for either bundles or standalone merchandise, meaning it understands when a traveller has status, a subscription such as for club access or WiFi, and Corporate Preferred Elite benefits, “and soon we will add Jetstream permissions,” says Toth. Ancillaries that a customer is already supposed to receive are not offered in the ‘mall’ display. He adds that the customer profile lives with the carrier in two places: its frequent flyer database and in its B2B corporate ecosystem. 

Buyers are now taking the company benefits and entitled benefits and having conversations about how they want to buy travel at United Airlines, says Toth. “That’s the next level of API that’s happening right now, and we’re really excited about it because it’s what NDC was intended for,” he says. “It’s about getting rich content in front of buyers that allow them to create the exact experience they want for their travellers when they’re flying on business.” 

Toth also noted that buyers need to consider merchandising their travel policy “because absent of doing it, your travellers are going to buy it,” he says. “If you’re going to start to get into NDC, in order to expose content that includes merchandise, you have to decide what’s going to be in company policy and what’s not.” 

United has some buyers that provide certain benefits whether or not a traveller has status, says Toth. There are also some that don’t allow or reimburse for any merchandise. “In order to avoid friction with travellers, let’s show it,” he says. “Let’s make it crystal clear that they have to tender their own credit card for [ancillaries]. So that discussion needs to occur before a buyer flips on NDC.”

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