American Airlines delays tying air miles to NDC bookings

American Airlines postponed a move to stop awarding loyalty points and air miles to customers booking through ‘non-preferred’ travel agencies from May 1 but only by two months.

British Airways’ US partner American announced the May 1 deadline for travel retailers to become a preferred agent or miss out on customer rewards in March as it seeks to drive take up of new distribution capability (NDC) technology.

The carrier warned agents and travel management companies (TMCs) they would need to implement NDC and sell 30% of American’s tickets via an NDC channel by April 21 to qualify for rewards.

The airline has said the threshold will increase to 50% from October 31 (Travel Weekly, March 14).

US agents’ association Asta welcomed the postponement, saying it gave agents “a couple more months to prepare”. But Asta president and chief executive Zane Kerby noted: “The fundamentals appear not to have changed.”

He suggested American “may now admit its NDC technology was under-developed and its deadlines unrealistic” while accusing the carrier of “anti-competitive behaviour”.

NDC is a technology standard developed by Iata to distribute air fares and ancillary content to intermediaries via online APIs (application programme interfaces).

The Advantage Travel Partnership also welcomed the deadline extension.

Global business travel managing director Andrea Caulfield-Smith said: “It’s important all travellers can accumulate miles irrespective of their booking channels [and] it’s imperative travellers are still able to book through a TMC.”

Earlier, the World Travel Agents Associations Alliance and agents’ associations of Canada (ACTA) and Latin America (FOLATUR) joined Asta in condemning the airline, saying: “American is actively discouraging travellers from booking through the travel agency channel.”

A Global Business Travel Association (Gbta) poll of more than 800 corporate travel buyers and suppliers in April found 71% want more information on NDC and more than two out of five buyers (42%) felt airlines “are rushing NDC implementation”, rising to 49% in North America.

Half the corporate travel buyers polled (51%) had not begun to implement NDC and only 10% had a company NDC programme implemented.

One in four (23%) had begun to implement NDC and reported problems.

Three out of five buyers (60%) had not budgeted for additional costs servicing NDC bookings, and more than one third of travel suppliers (36%) reported challenges rolling out NDC.

Go to Source...