With Aer Lingus’s recent certification of its NDC product, Datalex’s Senior Product Manager, Maria Gray, sat down with Aer Lingus’s NDC Manager, Alain Sato, to discuss the certification and give insights into how through the deployment of the NDC api provided by Datalex, the Aer Lingus team received IATA’s stamp of approval.
Maria Gray: Congratulations on your recent NDC milestone, Alain! Tell us more about your recent news.
Alain Sato: Thank you, Maria. We are delighted to have been granted the IATA (International Air Transport Association) Airline Retailing Maturity status. Receiving IATA’s recognition is another key milestone as we continue to improve customer experience for all who choose to fly with us. We look forward to working with more travel retailers around the world on expanding our product offerings.
Maria Gray: That is great news and obviously Datalex are thrilled to be involved. For those who don’t know, through the deployment of the NDC api provided by Datalex, the Aer Lingus team has received IATA’s stamp of approval for full end to end shopping, booking and order servicing. The full suite of these capabilities is delivered through Datalex's NDC software.
Alain Sato: Datalex has been an excellent partner in achieving this milestone. NDC is a key part of Aer Lingus’s ‘Look Forward’ programme that will create a digital customer experience.
If we step back a bit to look at where we started this journey, we had an issue where our indirect customers were missing out on additional products for their trip. The initial approach was a B2B solution in which agencies used NDC to book, but of course the agents couldn’t support ancillary sales. As a result, customers were missing out on bag, seat and meal sales, mainly on transatlantic flights through US agencies. We were also missing out on significant additional ancillary revenue, and Datalex’s NDC product suite bridged this gap. At first, our team deployed manage capabilities via NDC OrderRetrieve service which allowed travel agencies to retrieve PNRs that had been created outside of NDC channel. And ServiceList is used to find eligible ancillary products for purchase on these Orders and make the update to the Order. Maria, you might be better equipped to explain how that then handed over to your side.
Maria Gray: Sure. Servicing orders created out of the NDC channel is actually a difficult problem. So, we had to make considerations in solving this. First there are some basic checks that anyone using the api has to pass to ensure they are authenticated to access the api. Then we retrieve the PNR from ASTRAL and continue the checks to ensure that we are retrieving the correct booking and they are authorised to view it. Luckily, our Order management database is structured to create an order from even the scantest of details and with that in place we can then merchandise ancillaries that are appropriate to the passengers and the flights – so for example, only offer a Heathrow Express ticket when a flight is landing in Heathrow. Or don’t offer exit row seats if infants are included in the booking.
Alain Sato: I’d echo that, Maria. Merchandising across all channels has to be targeted and much more advanced in order to give the same level of servicing, whatever the channel. As NDC is on the same digital platform as Aerlingus.com, kiosks and our mobile app, it allows us to offer the same capabilities that are provided to web customers.
Maria Gray: 100% agree.
Alain Sato: So once all this was completed, Datalex pushed out the remainder of the NDC services which allowed travel agencies to shop and book Aer Lingus flights through the NDC api. In other words, through Datalex’s software, Aer Lingus now has the full suite of NDC api shopping, booking and servicing, which increases customer satisfaction and boosts additional ancillary revenue for Aer Lingus.
Maria Gray: And what about your travel agency partners, how are they finding the onboarding process to use the NDC api? What feedback have you received about the new capabilities?
Alain Sato: The response has been super positive. This development is only good because it enables travel sellers to sell and customise products for customers – very different to the typical GDS. Our recent certification from IATA also instils more confidence in Aer Lingus.
Maria Gray: And what is next for you and your NDC team in Aer Lingus?
Alain Sato: Well, it all starts with how great our team are. From implementing more functionality to onboarding new travel agents, we have a lot of work to do, with the team set to grow from this September onwards.
Maria Gray: It sounds like you have a great vision for NDC at Aer Lingus. How do you plan to measure success?
Alain Sato: Guest satisfaction will be our key measurements of success. Of course, increased ancillary revenue will be another key metric and as you know ancillary revenue derived from NDC is only beginning and is a completely unexplored frontier for us and the industry at large.
Maria Gray: Well, we at Datalex look forward to supporting in any way we can.