Mat Talks Travel – Episode 10 – with Accelya’s Tye Radcliffe
Cornerstone CEO Mat Orrego interviews Tye Radcliffe, Vice President Of Product Strategy, Order Group at Accelya, to discuss the logistical future of the New Distribution Capability (NDC).
This is the full version of the interview that was featured at GBTA 2021 during Cornerstone Information Systems’ Education Session titled: NDC: Hype or Disruption? A Reality
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Full Video Transcript
Good afternoon. I am with Ty Radcliffe. He is the vice president of product strategy for the order group for Accelya. Prior to that, Tye was with United Airlines for 10 years, heading up their distribution department and the director of distribution. Hello, Tye. Welcome to our conversation today.
Hi Matt. It’s fantastic to see you after such a long time and thrilled to be here. Thanks for having me.
Well, it’s good to be here with you as well. The topic of the conversation is really about how NDC is advancing and where we are. You’ve been involved with NDC for a long time. Tye, give me a little bit of a background on that.
Oh, sure. I remember it was 2012 or 2013. My boss at the time sent me over to Nice to meet with the IATA group that was working on NDC. I barely knew what it was about at the time. And we were in a hotel room, you know, a hotel ballroom with several folks from all over the world, talking about this new, exciting opportunity. And we divided ourselves up into booking and shopping and ticketing and all these different subgroups where we were actually creating the business requirements, documents and thinking through at a detailed level, what is it going to take to modernize this industry. And to think we’ve come from there all the way to last week in Madrid, we had the IATA digital data retailing symposium, and it was a fantastic event in Madrid. We had senior leadership folks from airlines from around the world, sitting on the stage, speaking about NDC at a detailed level. Which, you know, if you would’ve asked me in 2013 if we would have had C-level executives sitting on a panel talking about the merits of NDC, I, would have been dubious at best.
And I was thrilled to see it.
That’s really great to hear. I mean, I attended one of those initial meetings with you [in Geneva]. You encouraged me to be part of those. And I could tell then that, you know, that this was passed almost five years ago, that this was at the very beginning stages. And especially having, you know, going to the present and having been through this pandemic, we ourselves at cornerstone are really seeing a renewed effort in [NDC] adoption. Where do you see it impacting the corporate buyer as they put together their travel programs with their airline partners? What kind of things do you anticipate the corporate buyer needs to know about NDC in order to understand its impact on their travel programs and working with their airlines?
And its heart NDC is a set of messages. It’s message [and] transaction modernization in a world where your customers are sitting on their phone, ordering dinner, ordering a car, ordering a coffee. Expecting them to go through a laborious process to shop for and book travel? It’s just not meeting their expectations. But NDC is the foundation that will allow them – allow all of us – to build and use applications that really enable that modern retailing experience. And then you couple on top of that, the exciting thing for the corporate travelers, corporate buyers, and their customers, is this ability to negotiate deals as you’ve never done before. Why not negotiate a deal that allows this dynamic discount based on a real-time percentage of either share premium or revenue? That’s all possible in the future when the airline will know exactly how many tickets you’ve purchased. They’ll know they are in charge of their offer.
And that’s a key difference too, in today’s world when a corporate traveler shops through a booking tool, oftentimes the airline themselves really don’t get that involved in creating the offer. The airline publishes the fares to ATPCO and of course, they publish their schedules and they publish your corporate discount. But when the shop is occurring, all that stuff is just sitting in the GDS and it’s getting turned into an offer. Versus the NDC offer coming directly to the airline and the airline cooking up an offer and presenting it back to the customer in the channel where they want to shop. That’s what’s exciting. And so you can really start to think about, well, what could I do in a world where the airline themselves is answering each of these shop requests?
You know – somewhat aspirational – sometimes when you look at the world and you say, well, this is how I’d like it to be. Bringing it down to reality, you always want to be innovating and thinking about the world that you want to have and how you want your product or services presented. What are the realities today right now? Priorities that various stakeholders need to need to focus on to make this happen quicker potentially, or to make it even happen correctly.
From a purely technical perspective, NDC brings a lot more content and capabilities, not only to customers but to TMCs themselves. And so there will be a learning curve for certain. What are these new products and services that the airlines are capable of putting out and how can I best guide my important corporate travelers and customers through that process to make sure that they can obtain them? I think one of the first things that we have to sort out is the booking tool itself. For years, our shopping applications, the corporate booking tools themselves have been primarily focused on less expensive at the top and scroll, scroll, scroll, and getting more expensive. And, you know, there’s some fare rules, and this is flagged as in policy or not. And, you know, all the different things that go along with presenting a corporate travel tool, are going to have to be updated in order to support this new, cool content that you want to get in front of your customers.
I think that’s first and foremost. And then the ability for the travel agency to be able to service these, these, NDC bookings, right. They are doing it or relying on the GDS to get to it. And of course, the other thing, as you well know, is the mid-office application. And that’s why you and I have been friends for many years talking about let’s make sure office applications are ready to go. And doing things like taking that — remember in the future, a PNR, we call it an Order — So that the response, the view response that contains all the elements that you need to process them think through the mid-office system and to be able to communicate with the airline systems using these new NDC messages. And of course, the other side of that is the back office accounting system, the ability to take those transactions and account for them not only the ticket but these, these bundles and EMDs that are coming through and make sure that you’ve got a full understanding of what the customer bought.
You know the other thing that we’ve talked about in the past is a data feed from the airline into these applications so that you know one hundred percent, the customer bought from me in the corporate channel, in the agency channel, but then they made a change with the airline. Well, let’s marry it back together. So you, as the TMC always know where the customer is, you’ve got the right duty of care information and you’ve got the right itinerary, et cetera, and the NDC can make all of that happen.
Yep. And we’ve gotten so — and I appreciate that highlighting our discussions that we’ve had on the mid-office and more and more — you know, our customers are sending us NDC transactions that we’re having to process. And I’ve always been curious: is NDC going to, for an airline, provide better pricing, do you think from a contract perspective? Or a corporate buyer? Is there going to be potentially airlines that say ‘book through this NDC channel or this methodology because you’re going to get a better deal?’ Is that evolving? Do you see that happening?
Well, I can’t and shouldn’t speak for airlines and their commercial strategies any longer. But look, I think that nothing is off the table. And if you talk about what moves the needle here, in terms of modernization, it’s a travel experience that is easy and intuitive, and it’s access to content that the travel manager wants that traveler to see and consume. And if the airline working together with the travel manager negotiates access to content that they want their travelers to see, NDC is the way that you can deliver it. That’s where you’re going to see the adoption along with, I think, some creative commercial models, commercial models that we were discussing earlier relative to dynamic calculation of share premium. And couple that with what discount am I giving instead of reviewing this annually or semi-annually, or what have you. Why not have a real-time feedback loop type of relationship with your most important suppliers where you both feel comfortable, that you’re getting the most out of the relationship constantly, not just once a year?
So I think I tend to agree with you that this is not going to be something driven necessarily by the commercials that an airline can provide a corporation, but more the fact that they can provide a better experience. And that experience through NDC and the packaging of that airline’s product will be much more able to be adopted, accepted, [and] strategic with that buyer than in that corporation.
True. And I think what moves the needle more than anything else is content. That’s what drives adoption.
Yep. I agree. Tye Radcliffe pleasure to be with you today. Thanks for the time together and hope to see you out there live.
Thank you so much for having me