Startup travel aggregator AfroAtlas says a new partnership with Lufthansa Group has given it direct access to an AI-powered platform that could reduce the cost of access to air transport services in eastern Africa.
AfroAtlas CEO Ahmed Ugas says the German company’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) platform will consolidate online portals and help tame many of the challenges passengers, travel agencies, and airlines experience in booking and changing travel.
The collaboration also means AfroAtlas now has a broad base of users from Lufthansa Group’s passenger airlines—Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, and Eurowings.
Ugas told Quartz that by the end of this month, local airlines will have free access to the platform as well. “We are giving both local and international carriers equal footing in air travel experience,” he said.
Airlines on the NDC platform will be able to access information such as routes with high passenger traffic and comparative rates charged, while tour agencies and travelers also will get data on the cheapest airlines for different routes.
The startup hopes the convenience and time saving nature of the new platform will attract eastern Africa carriers such as Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Uganda Airlines, RwandAir, and Air Tanzania.
The timing may be right, as most of Africa’s airlines struggle to recover from the disruptions of the covid-19 pandemic.
Could technology plus Afcfta mean an airline industry recovery for Africa?
Passenger volumes in sub-Saharan Africa fell from 66.2 million in 2019 to 24.7 million in 2020, according to the World Bank’s latest data.
The use of technology to improve customer experience, cut costs, track aircraft parts, and secure baggage, could help turn around their fortunes as the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (Afcfta) begins taking root, allowing African airlines to fly more freely across borders. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts that passenger volumes in the region will recover by the end of 2022 to hit 116 million travelers and rise to 186 million by 2025 (pdf).
AfroAtlas is pledging to make all that transport more efficient for passengers and the travel industry more broadly. Says Ugas, “We have consolidated all airline services—flight ticket purchases, overseas hotel booking, airport transfers, tour service booking, travel insurance, holiday packages, and visa facilitations—into one. This will save them time and money.”
How NDC cuts costs
Melford Ndungu, account manager at the Lufthansa Group, said travelers using the NDC platform will find travel cheaper when they want to change seats, destination, or date of travel.
“Through this platform, you will save $21 in distribution charges. If you are traveling from Nairobi to London, for instance, you will save $45 in fare. If you want to change seats, you will save $7 per seat in costs. Then you have add-ons such as wifi vouchers, and lounge vouchers,” he said.
The Kenya Association of Travel Agents (KATA) and Tour Operators Society of Kenya (TOSK) believes the partnership could help local travel and tour operators who have been relying on legacy systems understand their priorities and attract more clients. “The world can come and experience Africa’s rich culture though an efficient platform,” KATA CEO Agnes Mucuha said at an Oct. 12 press event in Nairobi, where the platform was unveiled.