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Amadeus' Robert Buckman discusses:
Amadeus this month announced a commercial agreement with Air France-KLM in which it will be an aggregator of the airline group's New Distribution Capability content, the first deal of its kind with a major European airline group. As reported in The Beat, agencies wishing to access the content will need to reach bilateral deals with both Air France-KLM and Amadeus, and NDC content bookings also will carry a surcharge of a few euros per passenger and segment. Amadeus head of Americas travel content sourcing Robert Buckman spoke recently to BTN transportation editor Michael B. Baker about potential corporate use cases for the new deal as well as Amadeus' progress on advancing NDC amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
BTN: What possibilities does this agreement with Air France-KLM bring to managed corporate travel?
Robert Buckman: The entire prime booking flow of shop, order, pay has already been integrated in Amadeus. So, we have already had some advance development on the Air France NDC solution for quite some time. Tangibly, that will mean by the fourth quarter of this year, our pilot agencies will be able to have the first views of the unique content that Air France-KLM has been defining for NDC. You will see the potential of corporate bundles, dynamic pricing and future strategies the folks at Air France-KLM are working on. To the degree that you have the most broad product representation from the carrier available through an aggregator solution, such as Amadeus' travel platform, that represents tremendous value for corporate travel agencies, as you have a bigger picture of the airlines' full offering in the market.
BTN: Where does NDC lie in terms of priorities at Amadeus amid the pandemic?
Buckman: Today, we have over 14 airlines that we are actively working with in our NDC program. Air France-KLM is a leading airline within that group of collaborative partners, and it shows a testament to the strength of our technology, the reach of our travel platform and the value of Amadeus' proposition in the marketplace to bring that aggregated content to our customers, via our APIs, our platforms for the travel agents or our Amadeus Cytric Travel and Expense application for the corporate travel market. Despite some of the concerns that the industry is navigating today with the impacts of Covid on their operations, Amadeus in fact maintains the NDC development and the prioritization of NDC as a priority for our organization. This will continue to demonstrate that while we are not immune to the impacts, we are doing everything we can to not only maintain but to accelerate our NDC development. We do believe the promise of NDC is a compelling promise for the industry as it pertains to enable greater travel retailing, personalization and custom offers in the market we believe will add value to travelers for many years to come.
BTN: Has the pandemic in some ways made NDC more important?
Buckman: Yeah. When you think about a pandemic, we understand that being nimble and having the ability to be agile in how you manage day-to-day operations and the challenges that come with the side effects of a global pandemic require us all to be a bit more experimental, to be a bit more agile in how we address the needs of the day. The promise of NDC will enable us to iterate those types of innovations and product services in the market in a much quicker way than we have in the past. There is a collective view that NDC represents tremendous value in that respect.
Amadeus maintains a strategic long-term view that NDC is a very strategic development not just for Amadeus but the industry as a whole, so we are maintaining our investments in NDC despite the difficult decisions we have to make with the limited resources we have."
BTN: Has the pandemic slowed any of the collaboration among the different players with NDC?
Buckman: We have to acknowledge there have been challenges that have been experienced across the industry. We've seen workforce reductions at our customers and our own operations that have an impact in organizing our priorities. Amadeus maintains a strategic long-term view that NDC is a very strategic development not just for Amadeus but the industry as a whole, so we are maintaining our investments in NDC despite the difficult decisions we have to make with the limited resources we have. We maintain an accelerated roadmap to ensure we continue not only to deliver but to lead in the area of NDC. Amadeus sits in a unique position in that we are not only an NDC aggregator but an NDC IT provider, so Amadeus maintains two core and leading passenger service systems in the marketplace today: Amadeus Altea as well as the Amadeus Navitaire platform. With both of those platforms, we have developed NDC IT solutions that service those platforms. We sit in a unique position to not only define and develop the strategy for how we develop IT solutions for airlines, but do it in a way that is influenced by both sides.
BTN: Where is Amadeus in terms of NDC certification with the International Air Transport Association?
Buckman: For the Altea platform, we are Level 4 certified as well as Level 4 certified as an aggregator. We are working with carriers for a scale certification.
BTN: Has there been more of a shift in focus to leisure with NDC applications, as that will be recovering more quickly?
Buckman: While many experts in our industry understand that the impacts of Covid are likely to have a prolonged effect on corporate travel, for NDC, we continue to maintain and accelerate the development that will service all the segments. At a certain point corporate travel will begin to rebound, and we want to make sure NDC services all customer segments. There's a lot more complexity in corporate travel, so we maintain an existing roadmap that addresses the main development for the corporate market.
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