Singapore Airlines emerges as IATA’s NDC poster child for Asia

Singapore Airlines (SIA) has emerged as the leader in Asia for adopting and embracing IATA’s National Distribution Capability (NDC). While most airlines in the region have been slow to develop NDC capabilities and several regional travel agents are not yet on board, SIA is helping IATA build awareness.


Summary:

  • Singapore Airlines and subsidiary SilkAir are the only airlines from Southeast Asia and South Asia that are NDC Level 3 compliant;
  • The carrier has been working over the last year to build up its NDC capabilities and collaborating with travel partners in testing the new technology;
  • Singapore Airlines is helping IATA raise awareness of NDC in Asia throughout both the airline and travel agent sectors.

SIA SVP sales and marketing Campbell Wilson told CAPA TV last month the airline has spent the last year building NDC capabilities and proof of concepts with GDSs, OTAs, TMCs and aggregators. SIA in October launched a developer portal to work with travel partners on NDC and its proprietary APIs. Mr Campbell says this provides a platform for other parties to come to SIA and test out API technologies in a “sand box” setting.

Mr Wilson pointed out that SIA’s product proposition includes a lot more than just seats and NDC enables SIA to better convey its product attributes than traditional GDS distribution. “We see NDC or API distribution generally as a key part of our future distribution strategy,” Mr Wilson says.

In addition to working with agencies and GDSs, SIA’s NDC strategy encompasses other types of companies including travel bank retail platforms and social media sites such as Alitrip and WeChat. “Future distribution is so much more fragmented that it has in the past and it’s absolutely critical we are part of that,” Mr Wilson says.

SIA has taken on a leadership role in helping IATA build awareness among both the airline and travel agent community in Asia, particularly Southeast Asia. There are now about 50 airlines globally that are compliant with NDC Level 3 standards but SIA and its regional subsidiary SilkAir are the only compliant airlines from Southeast Asia. There are also no compliant airlines from South Asia.

“It has taken hold more in other parts of world than in Asia so far but it will come to Asia,” Mr Wilson says, adding he hopes other Asia airlines will join the programme. “We really need to get that message across in Asia.”

For the travel agency sector, it is a similar message. Mr Wilson says big global agencies and TMCs now understand and are talking about NDC. “It’s the smaller regional focused agents that are still not sure and perhaps haven’t realised how much industry has evolved in the last a couple of years. So a lot of it is education and particularly in the Asia region there’s a lot of education required.”

While NDC is viewed as a technology to enable agents to better sell ancillary products offered by airlines that have historically been only available on direct distribution channels, SIA views NDC more as an opportunity to improve access and awareness to its product bundle. While SIA sells items such as insurance, car rentals and hotels, it has many inclusive products such as the Book the Cook pre-order meal programme for premium passengers (including premium economy).

“It’s all the other attributes that make up the Singapore Airlines experience and justify the value of Singapore Airlines,” Mr Wilson says. “So for us it’s not about selling ancillaries; it’s about emphasising the right ancillaries to trigger the purchase of an air ticket. That is only possible under an API NDC type distribution model where you are bundling the various attributes of the product and emphasising and selling them in a way that means something to customers.”

Mr Wilson, who previously served as the CEO of SIA’s LCC subsidiary Scoot, points out an LCC and FSC require the same underlining technology but an LCC unbundles its products and sells them independently, including to agents via API.

HEAR MORE ABOUT NDC AND SIA’S NEW DISTRIBUTION AND DIGITALISATON STRATEGIES from Singapore Airlines’ SVP sales and marketing, Campbell Wilson, in this exclusive CAPA TV interview filmed on the sidelines of the CAPA Asia Aviation Summit in Singapore in early Nov-2018.

LCCs have been slow to adopt NDC, particularly in Asia, but IATA and its technology partners are working to build awareness in the LCC sector. The impact of NDC on the LCC market will be discussed at the CAPA Global LCC Summit in Singapore on 25-Feb-2019. For more information on the summit click here.