Airlines are prioritising NDC roll-outs but they may not be in the best position to insist on what channels they will accept in a COVID-19 market, according to Riaan van Schoor, ceo of data and automations supplier, Agentivity.

Under the current real business conditions, airlines are more likely to take any and all business they can get. This presents an opportunity for agents that Riaan says is pivotal to how they will do business in future.

“Before COVID-19, airlines would provide conditional agreements to agents about the content they should book on NDCs and other channels. They were previously in a position to impose NDC booking targets because aircraft were full but now this is not the case,” Riaan says.

Agents must make use of this potential breather (where less emphasis is placed on channels) to realise that they themselves are a valuable distribution channel directly for the airlines.

“We need a more modern approach to how agents sell airline products in a proactive way. Then they’ll prove themselves as a more viable distribution channel. The agency model today simply responds to a request from a client and then moves on.”

Riaan says agents should try to suggest and sell additional products, and tailor-make a solution for their client’s specific needs, then it will be more worthwhile for airlines to look at them as a distribution channel.

Regarding the efficiency of NDC over traditional channels, Riaan says Agentivity can see from its data that there are underlying issues with NDC – agents have been frustrated with the lack of change management processes which made it difficult to deal with client amendments to travel plans.