Skift Take

A significant ancillary play from the Canadian online travel agency, but not quite the leap forward for so-called new distribution capability in the U.S. many would want to see, given Spirit's reach and target flyers.

This latest airline partnership from Hopper serves as a reminder that the travel booking app isn’t just about insurance and financial services.

The Canadian company, whose CEO Frederic Lalonde will take to the stage at Skift Global Forum in New York next week, has now added an new distribution capability, so-called NDC, based connection into Spirit Airlines, giving it direct access to the low-cast carrier’s full inventory.

This means more opportunities to sell extras like bags, seat assignments and even water bottles, which the carrier collectively calls “A La Smarte” options.

The integration comes as global distribution system Amadeus renews calls for more travel companies to adopt NDC — the technology standard developed by the International Air Transport Association, and designed to standardize airline retailing.

Algorithmic Merchandising

Hopper’s Sprit signing represents its first NDC tie-up in the U.S., and follows its integration with Europe’s Lufthansa Group in January — Hopper’s first NDC partnership. In 2019, Lufthansa invested millions of dollars into Hopper as part of a wider project to further research predictive analytics models and flight-demand forecasting.

Hopper, which last month announced it had raised an additional $175 million, said the integration reinforced its long-term commitment to NDC. “As demand continues to rebound after the pandemic, NDC-enabled connections are crucial to determining the right offers for our unique set of customers,” said Dakota Smith, chief strategy officer at Hopper.

Hear Frederic Lalonde, CEO and co-founder of Hopper, speak in person at Skift Global Forum in NYC September 21-23

However, new distribution capability uptake remains slow in the U.S., according to one expert.

“There is still a huge difference between the U.S. and the rest of the world with NDC, which is that in the U.S. they are not pushing it commercially with the so-called GDS surcharges,” said Jorge Diaz, CEO and founder of AirGateway.

Amadeus this week has called for extra commitment from the wider travel industry.

“For years now, the travel industry has been talking about NDC in future terms,” said Angel Gallego, executive vice president, travel distribution, Amadeus. “It’s coming and it will transform digital retailing, was its promise. Well, that moment is now here.”

Amadeus said there were 2,500 travel agencies across 50 markets now able to book and service airline content via new distribution capability using Amadeus solutions.

“Transformational change is impossible without industry-wide collaboration,” said Erik Magnuson, vice president of product management, mobility and payments at corporate travel agency CWT, in the white paper, “NDC and the path to industrialization,” published Monday.

There’s already plenty of industry-wide collaboration between Hopper and Amadeus, however, as the global distribution system has been distributing the Montreal-based online agency’s upsell products, which include price protection and trip protection, since July. The deal is part of a new frontier for the travel industry as many companies invent more creative ancillaries.

Hopper forecasts it will surpass $1.5 billion in gross sales this year, with 60 percent of the travel sales coming from selling plane tickets and related products and services.

Hear Frederic Lalonde, CEO and co-founder of Hopper, speak in person at Skift Global Forum in NYC September 21-23

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Tags: airline distribution, amadeus, cwt, hopper, lufthansa, ndc, sgf2021, skift live, spirit airlines

Photo credit: Hopper has added a new distribution capability-based connection into Spirit Airlines, giving it direct access to the low-cast carrier's full inventory. Spirit Airlines

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