Despite the growing trend of airlines funnelling agents into NDC booking channels rather than traditional GDSs, South African agents currently remain resistant.
A recent Travel News poll revealed that 91% of responding agents were still only booking GDS fares, 5% of agents book about 50/50 GDS/NDC fares, and only 3% of agents predominantly book NDC fares.
There is a growing list of airlines operating in South Africa taking a two-pronged, ‘carrot-and-stick’ approach to their NDC drive. The latest to introduce this type of strategy is Emirates. The airline will introduce a surcharge on all bookings made via the GDS on July 1, while concurrently encouraging agents to book on Emirates Gateway (a booking channel that provides access to Emirates content through NDC APIs), which will offer agents exclusive content such as promotional fares and a range of ancillary services.
Commenting on a Travel News article on NDC, travel agent Jacques (a Disqus user name), said for many years the one go-to tool for flights was the GDS. “It has been working well. If all the airlines go the route of wanting us to book through their portals it will be a nightmare. Imagine all the additional logins and training needed. As a travel agent where would we find the additional time to generate a quote if we have to log in to each airline separately? You would literally have to check each option or airline separately if this was the way forward. Travel agents have been supporting the industry and it is just getting more difficult to continue with a career as an agent.”
Ceo of Asata, Otto de Vries, spoke to Travel News, and said airlines that were enforcing these global decisions without giving due consideration to the readiness of certain markets, could find themselves losing market share.
“It is apparent that the South African market is not a high adopter of NDC fares yet, which may in some cases be related to the relative lack of technological development compared with other source markets. At present, attempting to drive agents away from the GDS and on to separate NDC booking channels for every airline, without filtering market readiness, is highly disruptive of an agent’s workflow and may result in consultants offselling in favour of airlines that are still facilitating competitive pricing and an easy booking processes through the GDS,” he said.
FCTG md MEA, Andrew Stark, said the Travel News poll results and South African agents’ reliance on the GDS was unsurprising. That said, he added that there was no running away from NDC, which would become more and more prominent as the years passed.
“We have always forecast that NDC would make up about 5% of our booking volumes by 2025. But with the latest move from Emirates, a giant in the market, which accounted for 30% of our airline business prior to COVID-19, we believe that NDC adoption in South Africa will be ramped up so that agents can take advantage of the better fares on offer through NDC booking channels. Our forecasts now indicate that 10-15% of our flight bookings will be made through NDC channels by 2025,” said Andrew.