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AFTA CEO Update - Tuesday 30 July, 2019

In just two days from today (Thursday 1st August, 2019) what has been a very long road, too many conferences and working groups to think about, a lot of talk (in some case dribble) and a lot of hype, NDC will take centre stage as Qantas turns on their Qantas Direct Channel (QDC). I can’t wait, I mean I and everyone have been waiting for something chart-topping, amazing, game-changing seismic shifting – because that is what the storytellers and public relations machine of the airline industry as lead us to believe.

Free kick for Qantas on this however as that has not been there main thrust, but it has been the trust of the airline PR machine – IATA. The stark truth of it all in real down in the trenches reality is that for a travel agent in Australia the 1st August 2019 from the point of view of what they can book, how they search, what their consultants can see as they look to book to pay for their client, will be exactly the same as it was on the 30th July. So, a little bit of a let down from my perspective and there is no doubt from the travel agency community a big letdown.

Of all the things that AFTA has been contacted about from members over my short 12 years, this tops the list. I have had more emails, phone calls, text messages, enquires, outrageous communications, nudges and pushes than I got when we de-regulated the industry 4 years ago. So it would seem to me that this stuff really matters, yet does it? At the end of the day when it is all said and done my number one question of any airline looking to migrate to an NDC platform for distribution has been “will (we) [meaning the airline and agent], sell more tickets and make more money”. It remains a simple question and unfortunately in the lion share of the responses that I get from across the travel value chain is – I don’t know.

So what we are we solving for? I’m told it is more about the customer and the experience and access agents will have to content that they can’t get access to easily today – except that will not be the case on the 1st August this year, it will be on another day, so we will have to wait and see what that really means. For all the agents in Australia and across the globe who have taken the leap of faith and signed the agreement, I say to you – congratulations.

This was your only path, but it is a path we all hope that will bring all the wonderful benefits that we can only imagine at this point in time. Now some will read this column and get cranky, some will read this column and wonder what it is all about and some will read this and say – your right, let us see as if we all have faith in the truth, it will always prevail and if we and the airlines are to be in a partnership, then faith and truth must be at the centre of everything we do together.

So best of luck for NDC Day, which will go down in history as sharing the horses’ birthday and perhaps in a year from now when I am bashing out this column, it will start with – wow, that’s amazing how things are so much better, easier, efficient and accessible and it’s true, we are all selling more tickets and making more money and all will be good in the world. I hope that is the outcome for all.