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NDC (New Distribution Capability) is being implemented or considered across the entire airline industry. Its implementation and continued development require in kind development by all downstream travel technologies in order to normalize the content at scale. The resulting development timelines may lead to delays in functionality and inconsistencies between the corporate program and consumer sites.

What is NDC?

NDC (New Distribution Capability) is an airline-led initiative launched by IATA (International Air Transport Association) for the development and market adoption of a new, XML-based data transmission standard (NDC Standard). An iteration of APIs, NDC is intended to “modernize” airline retailing capabilities to further enable personalized offers, dynamic pricing and product differentiation.

There are various versions of NDC Standards being adopted and implemented by airlines globally. Complementary technologies are working to incorporate this content as new iterations are implemented.

How NDC Could Impact Your Travel Program

NDC fares are often priced lower than their legacy (EDIFACT) counterparts. These pricing discrepancies can vary widely depending on market pair, class of service, and other factors. In addition, NDC allows airlines to dynamically price their offerings rather than having to publish fares on a set cadence.

While lower prices are the primary benefit today, airlines may incorporate other incentives to encourage market adoption of NDC content such as leveraging corporate agreements or traveler loyalty programs.

The trade-off for these lower fares comes in the form of overall program compatibility. As airlines continue to transition the distribution of their content to NDC channels, technologies supporting the wider managed travel industry will be evolving in concert. Each airline is operating under its own strategic plan. Therefore, the pace of change will vary by airline as will the potential for certain content to be unsuitable for the managed travel program.

This could lead to:

  • Temporary disruptions to normal servicing capabilities or downstream processes.
  • An increase in the average servicing time for complex customer issues.
  • Loss in agency control of, or exposure to, a customer’s booking.
  • Inconsistency in content availability or fare price between online (SAP Concur Travel) and offline (advisor-supported) booking channels.
  • Frequently fluctuating fares or offerings distinct to an individual customer.

How The Travel Team is Approaching NDC

The Travel Team is committed to a sustainable adoption of NDC that balances traveler experience with the preservation of key value drivers of a managed travel program. Though trade-offs do remain, NDC is a focal point of the future for airline content distribution and as such, The Travel Team is taking a proactive approach to its inclusion. This includes the booking of NDC content when it is the same price or lower than its legacy (EDIFACT) equivalent in the offline environment. In doing so, we endeavor to minimize any traveler-facing impacts that may occur.

NDC Strategy Across Major North American Carriers

American Airlines

American Airlines is currently the most aggressive adopter of NDC in the US market. In April 2023, it began a shift resulting in a significant amount of its content being removed from legacy channels and only offered through NDC, or offered with fare discrepancies between EDIFACT and NDC channels.

As of mid-2024, American Airlines signaled an easing of pressure around market adoption of NDC, including a reversal on requirements that may have impacted travelers’ ability to earn AAdvantage points for their bookings.

  • Basic Economy fares are offered exclusively via NDC channels.
  • Fare discrepancies have been found between NDC and legacy (EDIFACT) channels across all classes of service, however they are most common under the following circumstances:
    • Higher classes of service (particularly international destinations)
    • Booking >14 days before travel
    • Travel to popular vacation markets
American Airlines - NDC
Air Canada

Air Canada launched its new NDC strategy in June 2023 which creates several distinctions between new NDC content and legacy channel content, including:

  • Basic Economy “Basic” fares are only available through NDC channels.
  • A small fee is added by AC to any EDIFACT channel bookings.
  • Potential small variances in availability across AC’s branded fares between the two channels.
  • Air Canada Flight Pass and Air Canada for Business offers can only be booked through NDC channels.
  • Additional amenity and seat offers are exclusive to NDC channels.
Air Canada - NDC
United Airlines

United Airlines’s application of NDC is primarily in support of its wider “continuous pricing” strategy. While content largely hasn’t been removed, fare offerings via NDC are more likely to have a pricing discrepancy than their legacy counterparts due to continuous pricing.

  • US domestic and South American Basic Economy fares will no longer be offered through legacy (EDIFACT) distribution.
United Airlines - NDC

The following major/large North American airlines have made no announced changes to content distribution:

  • Delta Airlines
  • JetBlue
  • Southwest Airlines
  • WestJet
  • Alaska Airlines

Want to Learn More?

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