“We have built direct connect solutions with United Airlines, Lufthansa Group Airlines and Southwest Airlines to provide customers with the same inventory they can expect on the airline's direct website,” says TripActions.
In our third installment of our series exploring the various facets and functions of NDC Exchange, we take a look at how corporate travel management platform TripActions has connected its online storefront to connect its airline clients to a broader marketplace.
As we noted in part one of our series, NDC Exchange launched in Oct. 2017 with the promise of creating an online marketplace where airlines, travel management companies, online travel agencies, corporate buyers, global distribution systems, and other technology platforms could conduct direct transactions for anything that fell under the heading of “airline retailing.”
NDC Exchange was created by airline-backed pricing and distribution provider ATPCO in partnership with air transport communications platform SITA.
In essence, the NDC Exchange enables API connectivity between airlines and sellers using the New Distribution Capability (NDC), an XML-based data transmission standard introduced in 2012 by global aviation industry trade group IATA with the goal of unifying and simplifying unwieldy, convoluted airline retailing processes.
In October 2019, Southwest Airlines began connecting with NDC Exchange through TripActions, as it sought to capture more business from corporate travelers.
“By partnering with NDC Exchange, we are making our API more accessible,” said Rob Brown, Senior Director of B2B Strategy at Southwest Airlines, in part two of our NDC Exchange series. “This new addition to our no-cost multichannel distribution portfolio will drive consistency while providing the necessary functionality needed to support our Business Customers. Corporate Travel Managers and Travelers will have access to our everyday low fares and enjoy an easy and hassle-free experience from the same Southwest they know and love when booking via this channel.”
In addition to Southwest, TripActions has also been working on behalf of United Airlines to expose its products, such as in-flight wi-fi and access to its airport lounges, to business travelers.
We connected with TripActions representatives to get a clearer sense of the various paths and connections its forged with ATPCO as well as Global Distribution Systems and Online Travel Agencies to increase sales for its airline clients.
Kambr Media: What sort of content is TripActions able to distribute for Southwest? TripActions: Through our new direct connect with Southwest Airlines, powered by ATPCO’s NDC Exchange, travelers will be able to book, change, and cancel Southwest reservations through TripActions, enjoying the same great choice in inventory they would find booking through the airline directly.
Is it primarily seat bookings?
The partnership includes many of the flexible features that are signature to the Southwest Airlines brand, including flexible seating set up. Other features that travelers enjoy when booking Southwest via TripActions include:
- Early Bird Check-In can be added to a reservation
- Travelers can make changes to reservations right from the TripActions app
- Unused credits are surfaced and applied when desired
Does it also apply to the sale of ancillaries?
Yes, the direct connection with Southwest Airlines allows us to provide much more comprehensive coverage of the options available in the market – considered the closest thing to parity with carriers across fares, pricing, availability and ancillaries.
In addition to noting the available Southwest products you’re now distributing, are there any additional kinds of products you expect to add?
TripActions is actually not a distributor; rather we have partnerships with Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), Global Distribution Systems (GDS), and direct connections with suppliers to surface the best choice of inventory for our customers.
This includes working with our partners to surface their content in a way that properly showcases their entire offering. While we don’t have new products to announce at this time, we are constantly innovating to bring new solutions that better serve our suppliers, customers and travelers.
After TripActions’ own Storefront, is NDC Exchange the primary platform to distribute Southwest and other airlines’ content? Or does TripActions access content from NDC Exchange and then distribute that content on other channels and platforms/marketplaces?
We neither distribute content nor are we an aggregator; rather we are a full-service, end-to-end travel management company that surfaces content through our online booking tool and globally supports travelers through our travel agents. We believe in serving our users with the best choice in content offerings and at the best rates which means keeping up with and investing in the latest innovative tech to solve for customer needs. We are focused on providing our travelers with the best possible content and are partnering with both GDS’ and airlines directly to do so.
In addition to TripActions’ own storefront and NDC Exchange, what other platforms and online marketplaces does TripActions distribute and/or access content on (or from)?
TripActions is a marketplace that sources content directly from airlines, hotels, consumer sites like Expedia and Priceline’s Affiliate Networks and through global distribution providers. The result is an industry-leading spectrum of content from which travelers get the best deals.
If distributing on other marketplaces, how does NDC Exchange differ? Does it augment and expand the capabilities of those other marketplaces?
We have built direct connect solutions with United Airlines, Lufthansa Group Airlines and Southwest Airlines to provide customers with the same inventory they can expect on the airline's direct website. Our direct connection with Southwest Airlines was built via ATPCO's NDC Exchange which enabled us with the proper technology to connect with Southwest Airlines.
To help clarify, TripActions is not an intermediary and we do not sit between the airlines and GDS; rather we have separate partnerships with both. In our role, we partner with both airlines and GDS to provide us content that we can then surface based on what is personalized to the user and their company’s policies.
How is TripActions continuing to work with ATPCO on developing NDC Exchange, as well as ATPCO’s Next Gen Storefront, (which TripActions adopted in February)?
We are not building NDC exchange. Rather, we are working with ATPCO to bring NDC standards to life in a way that agnostically supports the needs of suppliers and the way their content should appear. Ultimately, this empowers travelers to be able to shop with transparency. Through technologies like NDC and ATPCO’s NGS, the online shopping experience for business travel is evolving to better present supplier content to business travelers, striking a balance between business objectives and the needs of their travelers.
How do you think the NDC Exchange will change the way airline products are bought and sold? Has NDC Exchange influenced the way TripActions develops its own products and selling strategies for clients?
Through solutions like NDC and ATPCO’s NGS, the online shopping experience for business travel is evolving to better balance showcasing airline products while simultaneously serving the traveler in a transparent and user-friendly way.
With a groundswell of activity across key players, we believe that NDC will serve as a flywheel to provide a more relevant booking experience for today’s business traveler.
At TripActions, we’re in the business of providing solutions for the traveler –– and we believe that driving high traveler satisfaction will lead to high platform adoption, resulting in compliance and cost savings for the company.
NDC Exchange has helped us achieve a new way to provide those solutions for travelers. We believe that to better serve our users, we need to rely on innovation and rapid expansion of our marketplace in this way. It’s all about serving our users with the best choice in content offerings and at the best rates and that means keeping up with and investing in the latest innovative tech to solve for customer needs.