ASTA asks travel advisors to document problems with American's NDC content

ASTA has written to the Departments of Transportation and Justice, decrying American Airlines’ decision to restrict some of its content to NDC connections only, calling the effects of the move anticompetitive with negative impact on consumers.  

Further, the Society is asking members to share negative effects of the decision to “strengthen our case” against the carrier.

ASTA on Monday sent a message to members encouraging them to share “the negative effects of how American’s abrupt transition is impacting consumers (primarily) and your businesses (secondarily)” by emailing [email protected].

ASTA said the inbox is being monitored by senior vice president of industry affairs Mark Meader and senior vice president and general counsel Peter Lobasso.

“Fact-based, plain English information is preferred, focused on agency clients more than agencies themselves,” ASTA said. “For example, what sort of price disparity are you seeing in NDC channels versus non-NDC channels? Clearly defined consumer impact will hold the greatest weight with the [DOT and DOJ].”

American on Monday went live with its decision to restrict some content to NDC connections only. ASTA had previously asked the carrier to delay the change until the end of the year. 

In a statement Tuesday responding to the letter-writing initiative, American said that NDC is not an unproven technology and said that last year one out of three travel agency bookings on American were made using NDC connections. All of the largest OTAs have been connected to American for years, the carrier added. 

“We are disappointed by ASTA’s ongoing campaign to misrepresent American’s commitment to delivering a modern retailing experience for customers,” American said. “New Distribution Capability (NDC) is about expanding customer options and improving transparency — goals that are demonstrably good for competition. ASTA does not even try to argue otherwise.”

ASTA said it decided to write to the DOT and DOJ based on the “scale of disruption coming.”

In its letters to the government bodies, ASTA argues that NDC readiness is not where it needs to be with most parties involved, from agencies, to GDSs, to booking technology providers. The society speculated that American’s decision could lead to higher service fees for clients, as well as a more complex and time-consuming job for advisors.

In the letter to the DOJ, ASTA said, “We suspect that AA has made a strategic decision to forsake short-term profits to achieve a stronger competitive position in the long term, one secured by denying complete access to its fare inventory.” 

American pushed against such assertions. 

“American has made huge investments to make travel agencies’ transition to NDC easier,” the carrier said. “We are the only carrier who has connected our NDC content to all three global distribution systems — work that was done explicitly at the request of our travel agency partners.  While some travel agencies have not yet connected, we have not withheld any information that would discourage or prevent comparison shopping.  All of our fares remain viewable over both NDC and traditional travel agency channels.”

The Society hopes members will share their experiences with American content to provide tangible, not theoretical, feedback to the appropriate government bodies.

American, conversely, encouraged people to visit to learn more about its NDC program. 

Robert Silk contributed to this report.

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