Sabre CEO wants to lead the pack in the march toward an NDC world

The CEO of Sabre Corp. declared that the company will be the leader in the industry’s development of distribution and retailing solutions that leverage IATA’s NDC standard.

Sabre issued a press statement outlining the main points of Sean Menke’s speech at The Beat Live, an annual conference staged by The Beat, a business travel newsletter.

“The conversations we have today with airlines and agencies are very different from our discussions even a few years ago,” Menke said.

That is something of an understatement, given that Sabre was one of the major – and most vocal – opponents of NDC when it was first introduced in 2013. But times have changed.

“The forward-thinking people are focused on driving value creation for airlines and agencies alike,” Menke said at the conference. “That’s how we will make NDC work.”

It has been slow going, however. Sabre Travel Network, the company’s GDS unit, was fairly recently certified at NDC Leve1 1 for “post-booking ancillaries.” Sabre Airline Solutions was declared Level 1 “NDC capable,” also for post-booking ancillaries.

Amadeus’ IT business was certified Level 3, the highest tier, for offer and order management. Its GDS business is “in progress.”

Travelport’s GDS business is certified at Level 1, while its IT side is designated Level 2, NDC capable for offer management.

Menke said the development of NDC standards was just the first step in the changes a series of changes that will affect the way airlines market their services and how travel agencies retail them to consumers.

Airline revenue management, ticketing fulfilment and servicing and other back-office functions that travel agencies provide in support of airlines also will play a role, he said.

“Sabre has a history of bringing together the interests of travel suppliers and travel retailers and finding ways for technology to move the industry forward,” Menke said.

He said that over the coming months, “we’ll be talking more about how we will bring this to market, but we have no intention of giving up the technology leadership role we have played historically.”

There is a bit of irony in that statement as well, given the role Menke himself played in shaking up the distribution landscape a decade ago.

As Air Canada’s chief commercial officer, Menke was deeply involved in the dust-up with the GDSs over the carrier’s fare families.

Air Canada was not satisfied with the GDSs’ inability to display the fares appropriately, so it yanked the lowest level – the stripped-down Tango fare – from the systems.

Sabre then retaliated and “de-listed” Air Canada.

Eventually, the companies kissed and made up, but it took nearly 10 years to fully patch the wounds.

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