The article below was published in Business Travel News November 12 2018:
People's Choice: Serko
The International Air Transport Association's New Distribution Capability promises to put ancillary airline products and customization into play for managed travel.
There's just one problem: Corporate booking tools can't accommodate the content.
The New Zealand-based provider has developed the first NDC-enabled corporate booking chatbot, dubbed Zeno. The company's Level 3 NDC certification means it can display, price and book ancillary content like seat upgrades, bag fees and meals in real time through an interactive chatbot. The engine pulls content from multiple sources, including all major global distribution systems, as well as NDC exchanges, aggregators and a direct connection with Australian carrier Qantas.
While the Zeno interface is straightforward, the behind-the-scenes work is complex, noted Serko SVP Tony D'Astolfo. Among those tasks are normalizing data and terminology for content across airlines, fitting NDC content into the booking workflow and applying corporate policies.
The result is a seamless process that enables the user to shop for different services easily. Routehappy integration provides photo and video descriptions. Zeno also can use loyalty accounts, now live with Qantas, to customize options.
"This is what the airlines want. They want to be able to retail their product right at the point of purchase," said D'Astolfo. "When you have a multisource engine, you can take content from different sources and make it seamless for the end user."
Meanwhile, travel managers enjoy visibility into the true cost of a trip during the booking process, ensuring that booked costs adhere to policy. Zeno has drawn interest in North America this year. Serko has signed reselling deals with Canadian travel management companies Voyages Encore Travel and Custom Travel Solutions.
The judges praised Zeno's pricing transparency and its integration with loyalty programs, though they suggested more targeted offerings to reduce the number of clicks in the booking process. Zeno's focus on NDC definitely swayed Innovate attendees, who voted to award it People's Choice. "This is where the spend is going and where airlines are moving," D'Astolfo said, "so we're going to jump right in."