Amex GBT's Crawley warns of NDC 'distraction'

American Express Global Business Travel president Andrew Crawley cautioned the travel industry from allowing New Distribution Capability implementation from becoming too much of a distraction from other needed investment. (Amex GBT is no. 3 on Travel Weekly’s 2023 Power List.)

Speaking on Wednesday at the Business Travel Show in London in an interview with EY global head of travel, meetings and events Karen Hutchings, Crawley described the complexity of NDC, which he called a “nonstandard and a developing technology.” While Crawley acknowledged that NDC was “a good thing for airlines to help them make money,” he said “the complexity of plumbing it in is hard,” with every API from each NDC player being a little different.

“For every airline API, we have to implement by [global distribution system], by country, by airline,” Crawley said. “The implementation and the cost are going to be a lot more complicated and longer than the airlines would like, the [travel management companies] would like and the customers would like.”

As reported in The Beat earlier this month, Amex GBT has developed a minimum framework that airlines and others in the distribution chain need to fulfill before bringing NDC content into the Amex GBT marketplace, of which no airline currently has met fully. The closest is Air France/KLM, with which the TMC is undergoing a “phased approach” in making NDC available in its platforms.

At Amex GBT, the focus remains “that all content be available in the marketplace,” Crawley said.

NDC likely will lead to requiring a “new version of reshopping” as well. As airlines create bundled offers, what’s available in them will not be consistent from airline to airline, making comparisons more difficult, he said.

Ultimately, Crawley said there will be a “clarion call for standardization” with NDC, which he said likely would fall into the hands of GDSs. In the meantime, however, the danger is that it “is going to be a major distraction from an investment perspective to making business travel work,” Crawley said.

One area Crawley sees potential is with generative AI, though he said it needs to be approached cautiously from a data protection perspective. “If you start putting stuff into ChatGPT or anywhere else, you don’t really know where it’s going,” he said.

Amex GBT is looking at a handful of use cases that it expects will have the biggest impact, with results validated by a live person, Crawley said. For example, ChatGPT could handle the bulk of the work in parsing and responding to a customer email; in a later iteration, it could even do the booking.

That won’t replace the need for live agents, however. “We need to be careful that when someone does need a person, that person is there,” Crawley said.

Crawley also said buyers likely are in for a difficult few years of airline requests for proposals, with “demand outstripping supply for airlines,” which he said is a rare occurrence but also a temporary condition.

“RFPs are going to feel different this year and next year as well,” Crawley said. “In 2025 for 2026, the demand we’re seeing on the leisure side will fade away.”

Source: Business Travel News

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