This week it was announced that Lufthansa had become the world's first airline to earn IATA's ONE Order accreditation. The identity of the carrier that got there first is not important. ONE Order, however, is and it could have a significant effect on travel management.
IATA's NDC recognises that business travellers want the same kind of information, choice and booking convenience of consumer leisure sites. It is also clearly a benefit for airlines to have a B2B channel to sell these extras.
With ONE Order IATA takes the retail concept one step further: "The IATA ONE Order program aims at simplifying airline reservation and accounting systems by gradually phasing out PNRs (passenger name records), ETKTs (electronic tickets) and EMDs *electronic miscellaneous documents) and replacing them with modern "internet-era" Order records."
According to Lufthansa "ONE Order allows all the travel products and services for a particular trip — even those of other providers such as partner airlines or third parties such as car rental companies — to be fully integrated under a single booking reference number."
For travel managers the benefits could be huge.
Using traditional travel booking data has always been challenging for travel managers because the cost of what is booked, be it an airline seat or a hotel room, often doesn't tally with the actual cost. This is because of cancellations, changed bookings and the extra charges which have become standard practice for traditional as well as low-cost carriers in recent years.
ONE Order enables booking data to include all spend on extras so no need to rely on expense management figures to reconcile booking with spent data. The potential to add data from partner carriers and other suppliers would also further greater transparency on end-to-end travel.
The danger lies in thinking that one carrier's adopting this product will be the panacea for getting better quality data more easily.
As IATA itself concedes, there are challenges around adoption, whether by TMCs, third party systems or commercial agreements.
In other words the idea is great but it only will save time and improve accuracy when it becomes the industry standard rather than in operation with only one, albeit quite a large one, supplier.
The need for reconciling data and relying on multiple channels will remain until the substantial majority of a corporate's suppliers are using a system like this as standard.
It all sounds so good but don't expect too much, too soon.