Prettier pictures lead to more sales for airlines — that’s the philosophy behind a growing bookings system that offers what Reuters called on Tuesday (June 5) a “more engaging visual approach to marketing” of tickets.
Going by the moniker NDC (new distribution capability), the system enables airlines to better showcase “their wares on travel agents’ screens will help sell fancier seats, tastier meals, lounge access and flight options — and give profits a lift,” the report said.
That matters because some 70 percent of airline ticket sales come via travel agents, websites and other third parties. “But in recent years, with more emphasis on selling extras on top of bookings, simply presenting fares and flight times in text wasn’t enough,” the report said.
That’s where the visuals come in.
Enabling passengers to view such images as plans, seats and even meals while shopping could entice purchases, according to the airlines’ line of thought. NDC connects agents and travel sites “directly to airlines’ visuals and information about onboard amenities, such as Wi-Fi access, plane type, entertainment options,” Reuters said. Using the system, travelers can buy extras like better seats and lounge access.
In the report, Yanik Hoyles, director of NDC at the International Air Transport Association (IATA), said, “Airlines want the agility and flexibility to push things the way they do on their website and sell more content.”
Those sales matter, according to industry experts, including Executive Chairman Peter Harbison of CAPA — Centre for Aviation, an Australia-based market research firm. He said, “More than half of the world’s airline profits come from the U.S. carriers, and, of that, almost 100 percent is from baggage charges and booking changes.”
Travel agents and tour operators might seem a relic of the past — as useful, perhaps, as cassette tapes — but an estimated 45 percent of tour bookings still go through those travel professionals, according to Phocuswright, another travel research firm. And younger consumers have not abandoned travel agents. MMGY, a travel marketing firm, has found that 33 percent of millennials are willing to use travel agencies.
That’s not to say travel agents have resisted the digital trend, of course. According to TrekkSoft, which sells online booking software, most tour operators favor online channels for bookings, with the mix as high as 60 percent in favor of digital. Such trends would seem to bode well for the NDC system, which — according to Reuters — was developed by the IATA in 2015 for its members, has undergone two years of testing and stands ready for a wide rollout. IATA speaks for some 280 airlines, which collectively account for 83 percent of global air traffic, Reuters said. Such carries as American Airlines, British Airways and Lufthansa are reportedly supporters of NDC.
Though NDC remains in its early stages, one user — Finnair — has reported that use of the system, in combination with other booking technology, has increased ticket sales by 30 percent. Additionally, “the number of site visitors who booked a trip increase 4 percentage points to 12 percent.”