Airline NDC Implementations No Longer Optional, DeepLine Consulting Reports

Feb 22, 2024

There has never been anything as contentious in the business of airline distribution. With 70+ airlines having already implemented NDC, there is increasing pressure on the remaining non-NDC airlines to get on board. This article summarizes the benefits, risks, and which airlines should come next.

DeepLine Consulting recently announced its rebranding and expanded suite of NDC-related services. As the travel distribution landscape rapidly evolves, airlines are now facing critical decisions regarding their distribution strategies. DeepLine Consulting is advocating for airlines to urgently accelerate their adoption of NDC.

“It’s well known that I have always been a proponent of rapid deployment of NDC, even when the IATA standard was being bashed by critics defending the legacy status quo. With over 70 airlines already selling through NDC channels, it’s case closed”, said Peter von Moltke, CEO of DeepLine Consulting.

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This DeepLine article incorporates 3 main sections:

• The well-known benefits a well-implemented NDC will deliver to airlines

• The lesser-known, but equally important, additional benefits

• Analysis of key factors that determine which airlines should implement NDC next.

The list of the more obvious and well-known benefits:

1. Incremental revenue generated from enhanced ancillary sales: NDC enables airlines to sell their unbundled content far more effectively through third-party distribution channels. Global airline revenue in 2023 reached almost $188 Billion, according to a recent article on Simpleflying.

2. Reduced Costs: NDC bookings bypass the traditional GDS channels, eliminating GDS booking fees. Travel sellers have the option of directly connecting to airlines for their content or accessing this from a wide range of different content aggregators. Either way, the airline benefits from reduced booking costs.

There could also be significant cost reductions from improvements in the efficiency of new digital tech stacks as airlines move from initial NDC into One Order.

3. Increased profits from the implementation of GDS Edifact channel surcharges, and/or content differentiation: Most European airlines have offset the cost of traditional bookings with tiered levels of surcharges. Others have driven incremental profitability by withholding low-fare content from the GDS channel, realizing lower booking costs and higher fares from GDS bookings.

4. Dynamic and continuous pricing driving incremental revenue: NDC allows airlines to implement dynamic pricing strategies. No more fare step functions, as well as real-time adjustments based on demand, seasonality, and personalization.

5. Improved Customer Experience: NDC enables seamless booking experiences, personalized offers, loyalty integration, and real-time updates.

6. Rich Content via NDC: High-quality images, videos, and detailed descriptions enhance the booking experience, enticing travelers to purchase with confidence.

There are several compelling additional benefits, which are less clearly understood:

7. For an airline, NDC enhances its Integration with airline alliance partners -- and facilitates improved airline partnership infrastructure, including code sharing, and interlining.

NDC also facilitates the integration of loyalty programs within alliances, making the implementation between NDC carriers far more efficient, with richer functionality. For instance, it could make it possible for travel agencies, to redeem miles from one alliance airline for flights with another member airline.

8. Not deploying NDC presents significant future risks that the airline will increasingly become isolated and fall behind its competitors, with most of the innovation now occurring in the new digital channels versus legacy Edifact.

9. Airline distribution is changing more rapidly right now than at any time in its history.

Quoting Lenin: “There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen”.

Non-NDC airlines risk being caught by surprise by sudden competitor moves in NDC channels or are oblivious to emerging opportunities.

10. NDC will enable rich partnerships with other travel-related businesses, generating incremental revenues and traveler convenience (e.g. with railroads).

“Airline and travel distribution faces deeply entrenched lines of legacy contracts that hinder agility and innovation. Our mission is to help break down these barriers by providing solid advice through our consulting services.

“We help guide airlines through the most complex challenges they will face with the implementation of NDC, lay out roadmaps, as well as detailed implementation plans”, said von Moltke.

The landscape of airlines that have not yet implemented NDC varies greatly in terms of their size, technical infrastructure, and key travel seller geographic distribution. Some factors driving or impeding airline NDC adoption are:

A. Size: an NDC implementation comes with a hefty cost, estimated by IATA to be between $1 and $2 per pax boarded, including between 20 and 50 FTEs required to implement and maintain NDC.

There are also other, less complex options, for smaller airlines to sell ancillaries - through GDSs or non—NDC content aggregators, such as Gordian Software. Typically, larger airlines are more likely to be interested.

B. Market positioning: NDC adoption will be more likely by airlines that have a strong presence in certain markets, which would sustain surcharge and/or content differentiation actions taken by the airline to shift bookings to NDC.

C. Government-owned? Given the procurement processes for government-owned airlines and tight budgets, they are likely to be inclined to delay NDC implementations for as long as possible. There are, however, several total or partially government-owned carriers already on NDC (Emirates, Qatar, Malaysian, Turkish, etc.).

D. What PSS is the airline using? If on Altea, or SabreSonic, they are more likely to be interested than if they are on a newer generation digital platform, such as Aeromart or Crane, who have modern established travel agency networks.

E. If they are an LCC or FSC. LCCs (like Southwest) often build their own APIs for agencies or GDSs to connect with. Many of these don’t like the overhead and lack of flexibility that comes with an NDC-based airline standard. There are, however, some LCCs on NDC, such as Spirit, Fly Egypt, Spring Airlines, etc.

F. Airline partners on NDC. If the airline has numerous partnerships with large NDC carriers, they are likely to be under pressure to implement NDC to facilitate better interlining, code sharing, and other partnership elements, such as integrated loyalty program benefits.

G. If an airline is already actively selling ancillaries via the GDSs or content aggregators. This demonstrates a purposeful desire to realize the incremental revenue potential from the sales of ancillaries, which could be expanded with NDC.

For those interested in contacting DeepLine Consulting, visit their website contact page at

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