American Airlines planes at Miami International Airport. (photo by Patrick Clarke)
The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) is calling on American Airlines to delay its plan to implement New Distribution Capability (NDC) until the end of 2023.
The airline currently plans to roll out NDC as early as April 2023, resulting in more than 40 percent of its fares being accessible only through NDC-ready channels.
ASTA President and CEO Zane Kerby issued a statement on behalf of the organization’s members and the more than 160,000 Americans who work at travel agencies across the country on Wednesday, calling it “clear that much more work needs to be done if NDC implementation is to be achieved in a manner that promotes healthy competition and avoids massive disruption to the air ticket distribution ecosystem of which we are all apart.”
“On February 15, 2023, and March 3, 2023, a select group of the largest ASTA members, travel management companies (TMCs) and corporate travel buyers met with AA to candidly share their concerns about the impending NDC implementation deadline in April. The meetings served to confirm attendees’ fears that AA’s statements regarding implementation ‘readiness’ are exaggerated, with crucial questions unanswered,” Kerby said.
“Since late 2022 AA has publicly stated that, beginning in April 2023, over 40 percent of its fares would be accessible only through NDC-ready channels. It appears that AA has made a strategic decision to forsake short-term profits to achieve a stronger, anti-competitive business position long-term, one secured by denying access to fare inventory. It inevitably follows that withholding such a substantial portion of its fares from critical independent distribution channels will have a serious negative impact on the traveling public, corporate travelers in particular.”
“Most of the key players, including TMCs, global distribution systems (GDSs) and third-party booking technology partners such as Concur have stated that they will not be fully prepared to facilitate NDC implementation by April. Without significant and key front-, mid- and back-office travel fulfillment systems ready and able to fully process NDC transactions, significant disruptions to shopping and booking, including ticketing, refunds and re-ticketing are inevitable. Regardless of third-party readiness, the fragile public trust already impacted by recent events within the airline sector is at stake,” he added.
“Beyond the unproven technology piece of the puzzle, processes that do not currently exist for servicing NDC bookings will need to be developed, tested, and implemented. The airlines have been working on NDC for over a decade, but this sudden bullying of valuable distribution partners into breakneck-speed implementation won’t serve our shared customers. During the pandemic, the airlines pled for solidarity and received $54 billion in public grants to maintain operations – far more than travel agencies received. Airlines are also sitting on millions in undistributed refunds that the Department of Transportation (DOT) mandated they return to customers. Given its broad consumer protection mandate, DOT may want to investigate the consequences of AA’s actions, should it continue down its intended path.”
“ASTA is cognizant that AA has been working with stakeholders to prepare for the coming changes. However, given the scope of this undertaking, it is clear that much more work needs to be done if NDC implementation is to be achieved in a manner that promotes healthy competition and avoids massive disruption to the air ticket distribution ecosystem of which we are all apart,” Kerby stated.
“For the foregoing reasons, ASTA respectfully reiterates its call on American Airlines to postpone NDC implementation through the end of 2023. ASTA is hopeful that significant strides can be made in all areas for which greater readiness is essential to a successful transition allowing the traveling public to be best served by the readiness sorely needed to avoid further disruption in this sector of travel.”
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