Air Canada Shifts to NDC Program, with Carrots and Sticks to Get Agencies On Board (2023)

Air Canada Shifts to NDC Program, with Carrots and Sticks to Get Agencies On Board (1)

We’ve been reading about it for years, and now Air Canada has finalized implementing their NDC program.

Saying that the current booking system is antiquated and doesn’t properly serve agents or customers, Air Canada on 19APR announced its move to the NDC (New Distribution Capabilities) program.

In the long run, it says, advisors will be better off with a new, streamlined system that allows them to serve customers more efficiently.

While explaining the benefits to advisors, agencies and even clients, it also outlined how it’s going to ease the transition, along with perks for agencies to use the NDC, and on the other hand, fees for continuing to use legacy GDS.

In a media conference, Air Canada said the NDC program now implemented will feature new benefits, expanded content and additional trade support for agencies and travel buyers. Airline executives said the program will provide a competitive alternative to legacy distribution, giving agents access to Air Canada inventory, fares, ancillary services, ticketing, and digital products.

The shift to NDC is no surprise, as the airline has been testing and working with IATA’s NDC program for some time, and Air Canada and Amadeus recently announced a new multi-year agreement that will provide access to the airline’s NDC-sourced content.

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Air Canada said the new program “utilizes IATA NDC industry standards to offer Air Canada’s complete content at the best possible prices.”

“For buyers and travellers, NDC technology means their preferred agencies can now offer a broader range of Air Canada travel options and services at the best possible prices, improving competitiveness and the customer experience,” the airline said in a statement.

“From local independent agencies to large corporate travel management companies, our travel trade partners were, are, and will always be crucial to Air Canada’s commercial success,” said Mark Nasr, Senior Vice President, Products, Marketing & eCommerce at Air Canada. “As we continue to introduce new products and revenue management capabilities, it’s incumbent on us to provide the travel trade with better technology so that they are well prepared for the future.”

Air Canada Shifts to NDC Program, with Carrots and Sticks to Get Agencies On Board (2)

Transitioning Carrots and Sticks

“The transition to modern distribution enables delivery of the full range of content and fares that Air Canada provides, as well as access to the many upcoming products and services that will improve travel,” the statement said.

Additional content immediately available on NDC technology includes domestic Basic fares, with best available seat inventory and discounted ancillary pricing becoming available on 14JUN, 2023.

Agencies will be disincentivized from continuing to use legacy GDS beginning that date.

Air Canada will begin to charge $20 to $30 USD per ticket to address the high expense of legacy models. The fee will be applicable to all tickets issued globally via GDS EDIFACT beginning 14JUN, 2023.

The fee does not apply to bookings made via any of Air Canada’s NDC connection options including NDC-sourced content in a GDS solution.

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On the flip side, an NDC incentive for agencies, worth $2 per coupon, will also be introduced beginning the same date and will apply to eligible NDC bookings made directly with an Air Canada NDC API connection or via select NDC certified technology partners.

The coupon is “meant to help them … offset, at least temporarily, that loss of revenue they may get from booking in another channel,” Keith Wallis, Air Canada’s Senior Director, Distribution and Payments, said in the media conference.

Officials said Amadeus is 95 per cent integrated with Air Canada’s NDC already and will “seamlessly” offer both AC NDC and GDS EDIFACT content. Bookings made via Amadeus and NDC won’t incur the $20-30 fee, but neither will they trigger the $2 coupon.

In a one-on-one interview with Open Jaw, Nasr said the trade has four ways to avoid paying the fee.

  1. Use Air Canada Connex, a travel agency specific website that doesn’t require investment in new technology. Nasr conceded Air Canada Connex is probably best for a smaller agency, versus a large one.
  2. The second option is for an agency with technical know-how to get the NDC specs and code and integrate the system directly.
  3. Agencies can also work with special, “next generation tech companies” in the industry who have already integrated their systems with Air Canada or other airlines.
  4. Go into Air Canada’s NDC through Amadeus, which is set up to handle both GDS EDIFACT and Air Canada’s new program. “You don’t have to have a special version of Amadeus, or hit the right decoder on the right day. You just go right into NDC,” Nasr said.

Nasr conceded there will be resistance by some agencies, but he pointed out that $20 to $30 USD is “just a few percentage points” on the cost of a ticket.

Long Term Benefits and Transition: Not Cold Turkey

In addition to making available the most comprehensive Air Canada content, the airline says the NDC program offers an efficient shopping experience for retail fare products and the elimination of select debit memos. Continuous pricing, as well as the addition of Flight Pass, is planned for 2023, Air Canada executives said.

Nasr said NDC is a “very mature” concept in Europe and parts of Asia, and is inevitable here in North America.

American Airlines recently unveiled its own NDC plan. It was heavily criticized by the trade, as reports, because American planned to stop selling nearly one-half of its airfares through traditional channels and would instead sell them exclusively through its own website and NDC-powered channels.

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Open Jaw asked Nasr if Air Canada has plans to do the same thing.

“Our strategy is about addition, not subtraction,” he replied. “We’re not going to at this point take away from the existing channel. Now, in the future, if we reach critical mass, if we arrive at a certain point, that might be a reasonable expectation, but we are not there.”

“We know we're asking travel agents to make a transition here,” said Wallis. “We're asking them to leave a technology that they have been using for decades that they believe in, that is comfortable for them, it's efficient for them. We take seriously our commitment to travel agents, and we realize that we are asking them to trust us and to use technology that we are supplying.”

“NDC is a big black hole for a lot of people; they don’t know what those letters stand for,” said Lisa M. Pierce, Vice President, Global Sales & Air Canada Vacations at Air Canada.

Pierce said Air Canada has been working with the new program for some time.

“It is going to be bumpy along the way,” Pierce acknowledged. “We recognize that it’s going to take time. It’s why we have a strategy that’s not really as drastic as you might see others doing.”

“Travel agencies represent the Air Canada brand,” Nasr told members of the media at the conference in advance of the news being released. “They are in many cases the front line to so many of our important customers. If we’re really going to elevate the customer experience, it’s not just about delivering better tools and better product directly, but a critical part is making sure the trade community is empowered with all the same information, access to benefits and tools, that our own internal employees have."

Air Canada officials said the current technology is unable to properly display important programs such as Air Canada for Business, Flight Pass and Cancel for Any Reason. Even a simple promo code, such as 20 per cent off all tickets to London, are hard to work with GDS. There’s also no support for the trade in GDS for Aeroplan, he said.

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“But right away with NDC we can expose the benefits a customer might have. For example, if they hold (Aeroplan) status or they have a credit card that entitles them to say a free seat, the travel agency will be able to see that before the booking is complete.”

It’s not just a convenience factor that pushed the move to NDC, it’s also an important economic decision for Air Canada.

“In addition to the technology being old and limited and arcane, the financial model associated with classic distribution has become unsustainable,” Nasr said. “Period. End of story.”

Even with today’s elevated inflation, Air Canada’s distribution costs have greatly exceeded inflation levels over the years, he said.

He added that the new system is critical to help Air Canada meet other goals, too, including maintaining market share in Canada, expanding its global network, offering deliberate, consistent and friction-free customer hospitality, capitalizing on leisure expertise and diversifying non-ticket revenue streams, all with sustainability as a key driver in all their decisions.

Pierce said partners have been given advance notice to provide them with time to prepare.

“We’ve had conversations and engagement around this change since last fall. We're going to be having regular webinars, email updates, and training sessions,” she said. “Most importantly, we're going to have one-on-one support for managed accounts as we understand the importance of having someone there who understands the unique business needs of each individual account.”

She said Air Canada will have a team of NDC experts on hand to help advisors and agencies with the transition.

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“We recognize the time and effort required by agency partners to transition to new technology and we are committed to supporting them,” said Pierce. “Their feedback to-date has served to shape our implementation plans. For example, our focus on introducing new content on NDC rather than removing existing content from GDS EDIFACT channels is a direct result of agency partner inputs. We will continue to actively listen to feedback, and we’ll use it to shape our policies and roadmap of future products and features enabled by NDC.”

Officials said many of Air Canada’s key agency partners have already begun implementing NDC connectivity, including Priceline, Flight Centre, Fareportal, Flighthub, Hopper, Maritime Travel, Skylink Voyages and Travix. These and other early partners have the opportunity to drive requirements and new functionality as the program develops. Air Canada will add NDC features and offerings as new products and services become available.

For more information, travel advisors and agencies can go to


What is NDC airline? ›

New Distribution Capability (NDC) is a data exchange format based on Offer and Order management processes for airlines to create and distribute relevant offers to the customer regardless of the distribution channel.

What is Connex Air Canada? ›

AC Connex is our free, web-based intuitive booking tool designed for travel agencies to give access to Air Canada's enhanced content and a whole host of functionality, features and capabilities for your business.

How do you access NDC content? ›

How do you access NDC content? There are two ways to access NDC content: Build direct connections with airlines one at a time. Work with NDC aggregators, such as a technology provider, who handle the individual airline connections for you.

How is an NDC assigned? ›

NDC Number

The first segment, the labeler code, is assigned by the FDA. A labeler is any firm that manufactures (including repackers or relabelers), or distributes (under its own name) the drug. The second segment, the product code, identifies a specific strength, dosage form, and formulation for a particular firm.

What are Air Canada Virtual's 4 main hubs? ›

It is a founding member of the Star Alliance. Air Canada's major hubs are at Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ), Vancouver International Airport (YVR), and Montréal–Trudeau International Airport (YUL). The airline's regional service is Air Canada Express.

What is the hub for Air Canada? ›

What is the difference between Air Canada and Air Canada Express? ›

Air Canada Express is a brand name of regional feeder flights for Air Canada that are subcontracted to other airlines.

Where do I find my NDC? ›

Each listed drug product is assigned a unique 10-digit, 3-segment number. This number, known as the NDC, identifies the labeler, product, and trade package size. The first segment, the labeler code, is assigned by the FDA. The NDC code can be found on the outside packaging of the drug.

Where is NDC data center? ›

National Data Centre (NDC) at Bhubaneswar is a Cloud-enabled Data Centre which has been offering cloud services to Government Departments since its inception.

What is a source NDC? ›

The source NDC identifies the original NDC that a labeler is packaging and marketing under its own and unique NDC.

What are the 3 sections of the NDC? ›

The 3 segments of the NDC identify the labeler, the product, and the commercial package size.

What are the rules for NDC? ›

The NDC must follow the 5digit4digit2digit format (11-digit billing format, with no spaces, hyphens or special characters). If the NDC on the package label is less than 11 digits, a leading zero must be added to the appropriate segment to create a 5-4-2 configuration. The NDC must be active for the date of service.

What are the new NDC requirements? ›

The NDC is the FDA standard for uniquely identifying drugs marketed in the United States. FDA is proposing to change the NDC to 12 digits in length with three distinct and consistent segments and one uniform format. Additionally, FDA is proposing to revise the drug product barcode label requirements.

What is unique about Air Canada? ›

Air Canada is Canada's largest airline, the country's flag carrier and a founding member of Star Alliance, and provides direct service to six continents. It is the only international network carrier in North America to receive a Four-Star ranking from Skytrax.

Why is Air Canada so successful? ›

“Our strong balance sheet, globe-spanning network that diversifies our revenue sources, brand strength as North America's Best Airline as rated by Skytrax, young fleet, dedicated and talented employees and nimble management team equip us to respond effectively to any challenges that come our way.”

What is cool about Air Canada? ›

Air Canada became the first scheduled airline in the world to offer exclusively smoke-free flights between North America and Europe. Prior to this date, in September 1988, Air Canada became the first Canadian airline to ban smoking on all of its charter and scheduled flights within North America and the Caribbean.

Who is Air Canada owned by? ›

Air Canada has been a private corporation since the adoption of the Air Canada Public Privatization Act in 1988. This means that its primary purpose is to make money for its shareholders. But the act also allows this private company to continue to use the “Air Canada” name.

Do pilots have to live at Airline Hub? ›

It means that pilots can live almost anywhere in the world. However, the further you live from your base usually means the more time you need to leave for your commute. Indeed, pilots who choose to live this life will often commute the day before their working trip and stay overnight in an airport hotel or elsewhere.

What is the biggest airline in the world? ›

In 2022, American Airlines Group became the largest in the world in terms of fleet size and passengers transported. The second largest is Delta Airlines, which is also the largest in terms of revenue.

What is the best airline to fly in Canada? ›

The Best Airlines in Canada in 2022
  • Air Canada. Air Canada is hands down the largest domestic and international airline in Canada today, both in respect to fleet size and the number of passengers it carries. ...
  • WestJet. ...
  • Air Transat. ...
  • Jazz Aviation. ...
  • Central Mountain Air. ...
  • Northwestern Air. ...
  • Sunwest Aviation. ...
  • Porter Airlines.

Is Air Canada one of the best airlines? ›

Air Canada is proud to have been named Best Airline in North America once again by Skytrax. It is an incredible honour to receive this award for the 8th time in 10 years, as voted by you, our loyal customers.

What is comfort class on Air Canada? ›

You can find Economy (Comfort) fares available on domestic, transborder, and routes to Sun destinations, but not on international routes or any Aeroplan booking. What is this? Report Ad. The primary difference between an Economy (Comfort) and an Economy (Flex) fare is that the former is fully refundable at no cost.

What does NDC stand for? ›

FDA's National Drug Code (NDC) Directory contains information about finished drug products, unfinished drugs and compounded drug products.

What is difference between GDS and NDC? ›

What is the difference between GDS operated sales and NDC sales? While in the GDS traditional distribution channel your Agency is issuing the ticket using the GDS/Ticketing System provider solution, the NDC transaction is issued by the airline itself.

Is NDC better than GDS? ›

NDC enables more product differentiation, faster go-to-market, better personalisation, and improved flexibility and transparency. However, NDC is not currently available across all airlines so travel sellers might need to integrate with multiple content providers depending on business needs.

What does NDC mean with Sabre? ›

Overview. The New Distribution Capability (NDC) is an XML-based data standard developed and promoted by the International Airline Transport Association (IATA) that enables airlines to evolve how they retail inventory, including the display of rich content and personalized offer bundles.

What are the 3 parts of NDC number? ›

The 3 segments of the NDC identify the labeler, the product, and the commercial package size.

What are examples of NDC? ›

Example NDC

For example, the NDC for a 100-count bottle of Prozac 20 mg is 0777-3105-02. The first segment of numbers identifies the labeler. In this case, the labeler code "00777" is for Dista Products Company, the labeler of Prozac.

Why are airlines moving to NDC? ›

The NDC approach allows carriers to take back control of their products adjusting offers to current market demand and customer preferences. Airlines can distribute their offers both directly and via middlemen capable of delivering NDC products (GDSs and aggregators.)

How many airlines are NDC certified? ›

- Between March 2020 and April 2021, the number of NDC certifications (airlines, IT providers, sellers) grew to 193 players, an increase of 18%.

What is the disadvantage of NDC? ›

Downsides of NDC in travel

Implementation of NDC is a costly process. Besides, there is no compulsion to become NDC compliant for airlines or online travel agents. There is no specific standard for implementing NDC, as the airline's IT provider can create a unique system for the client.

What are the top four GDS? ›

What are the major GDS softwares? There are several major global distribution systems that house and process the vast majority of data from hotels, airlines, and other distributors. These include Amadeus, Sabre, Galileo, Worldspan, Apollo, and Pegasus.

What is the largest GDS in the world? ›

Amadeus is the world's largest GDS, accounting for about 40% of GDS transactions, and it's especially popular in Europe.

What are the 4 largest GDS systems today? ›

The GDS Today

But for the purpose of our article, we're focusing on the airline component of the GDS. There are many GDS options, and each GDS system will has access to their own pool of carriers. The four largest GDSs are: Amadeus, Sabre, Travelport (which is the parent company of Apollo/Galileo and Worldspan).

What do the last 2 numbers of NDC mean? ›

The NDC is reported in an 11-digit format, which is divided into three sections. The first five digits indicate the manufacturer or the labeler; the next four digits indicate the ingredient, strength, dosage form and route of administration; and the last two digits indicate the packaging.

What is an obsolete NDC? ›

An obsolete NDC means the manufacturer of the drug no longer makes the drug in that form. For example, Hallberg Pharmaceuticals might have stopped making fentanyl in the form of a sublingual tablet. Let's say the NDC number was 99999-9999-1.

What are obsolete NDC codes? ›

An obsolete NDC means that the manufacturer of the drug no longer makes the drug in that form and that the given National Drug Code (for that drug) has been replaced or discontinued by the manufacturer.


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