Virgin Atlantic pledges ‘considered’ approach on NDC technology

Virgin Atlantic’s approach to developing and implementing new distribution capability (NDC) technology its “more considered” than its rivals’, according to Shai Weiss, the airline’s chief executive.

Weiss argued NDC “will catch up to all of us” when he spoke at the recent Business Travel Association (BTA) conference in London. But he said: “We’re not the leaders of this revolution. Our approach is more considered. We’ve gone slower with our partners.”

British Airways has imposed a surcharge on bookings through traditional global distribution systems (GDSs) and not using NDC connections since 2017, while BA’s US joint-venture partner American Airlines has withheld more than 40% of its fares from GDSs since April last year.

By contrast, Virgin Atlantic and US partner and shareholder Delta Air Lines, have committed to remaining ‘omni-channel’.

Weiss told the BTA: “We’ve all got confused about the objective of NDC. It’s not just to reduce cost, it’s to introduce better ways to show our inventory and move to a retailing model where you can sell more products.”

He pledged: “We won’t surprise our trade partners. Ultimately, [they] will all have to move to NDC or at least consider it a major piece of doing business.”

But Weiss insisted: “We understand our position in the UK. Our commitment is to remain omni channel.”

He said: “We’ll be taking more feedback on NDC product this year [and] thinking more about how we price.”

Weiss reported Virgin Atlantic is using AI technology “to ensure as much personalised and tailored pricing” as possible and said: “We’ll think about bundles, even how to price in Upper Class and Premium so everybody gets what they want rather than buying a ticket that comes bundled with everything.”

He insisted: “We can’t stop progress. But this is about the distribution model and the ability to unbundle and present multiple offerings to corporate customers.

“Right now, there is a bit of confusion about NDC. But ultimately, the ability to present our products to your customers and distribute effectively is the objective.

“If we can reduce friction along the way, that is a great advantage. I cannot make announcements now on behalf of Virgin or Delta, but I can tell you progress is being made every day.”

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