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Berlin - The Global Business Travel Association during its annual GBTA Europe conference here last week announced a charter committing airlines to continue serving the needs of corporate clients as they remodel their pricing and distribution strategies to further personalize the offers they make to travelers. The catalyst for what GBTA called the Berlin Charter is the International Air Transport Association's New Distribution Capability standards, currently in advanced testing with several carriers and technology companies. The Berlin Charter is undergoing a review process by various GBTA committees, which is scheduled for completion by year-end with plans for a formal launch early in 2015. BTN contributing editor Amon Cohen during the conference spoke about the project with GBTA senior vice president of global development Paul Tilstone. Excerpts follow.
Why are you launching the Berlin Charter?
The next stage with NDC is no longer whether it is going to happen but what business models airlines are going to adopt. It is important that airlines understand the needs of the corporate client when they create their strategies rather than focus only on the needs of the traveler. All the focus so far has been on personalizing content for the traveler, but it's not the traveler who pays the bill. It's the corporate. As digital distribution evolves, there is a risk airlines could forget the corporate has additional needs than the traveler.
What sort of needs are you thinking about?
One example is that companies need to understand where their travelers are so they can provide duty of care. Others we want them to recognize include ensuring the confidentiality of the data of the corporate; transparent pricing; policy control, giving corporates the ability to ensure travelers are booking what they want them to book; and payment solutions that the corporate wants.
What do you think buyers will learn from the charter?
It will ask airlines to tell us they acknowledge us. For those who don't sign, it may be telling us they are planning a direct-sell approach to travelers. If we didn't do this, and found in five years' time managed travel had been forgotten about, we'd be asking ourselves why we didn't do anything about it.
What exactly is in the charter?
The details are still being established by our committees, but it will be in two parts. The first will state what buyers need and why; the second will be a call to action, asking airlines to commit themselves to facilitating the various components of managed travel today.
What action will you take if airlines sign up to the charter but fail to comply with it?
Although it won't be part of the initial rollout, we have drafted a process for auditing whether airlines' behavior matches their words. If it doesn't, there will be a process of engagement in which we will ask them if they realize what they are doing is affecting corporate clients. If they still do not address the problem, their place on the charter will be reviewed. We will also attempt to engage those who don't sign up. There may be a reason we hadn't thought of, but we have had preliminary conversations with an airline that told us this was a positive way for carriers to say they support the interests of buyers.
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