AFTA View – April 2013

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Jason WestburyAFTA’s strategy is to engage with IATA as
debate rages over NDC plans

By Jay Westbury, chief executive Australian Federation
of Travel Agents


THERE is no question that the New Distribution Capability (NDC) which IATA is developing has sparked a raging debate among the global travel agency community and within IATA itself.

There are many questions on the table including – Why? What is it all about? Will the GDS have a role? Does this cut out travel agents? Does it breach privacy laws?

The position that AFTA has taken is one of engagement.

Until the many questions that IATA is looking to address can be answered it seems to be more pragmatic to be at the table talking to them, than throwing stones and firing bullets. Fortunately AFTA has a seat at the global table on this project.

In essence NDC is a new language which the airlines believe they need to better distribute what they have to sell.

Gone are the days of airlines just selling a seat on a plane. NDC is about airlines being able to provide rich and full content for anyone that may wish to view it. By this I mean that travel agents will definitely remain in the game.

There has been nothing presented on NDC that suggests it is being designed to cut out travel agents.

If you really stop and think about that, there is nothing stopping airlines cutting out travel agents right now. Indeed some airlines in the low cost model don’t really engage or promote distribution via the travel agent channel right now.

So simply writing a new language to communicate products does not have a direct link, necessarily, with the way airlines chooses to distribute their products.

NDC is a process that will take several years to come to life in any large scale. There are many hurdles and that is why IATA is running pilot programs and developing a large and wide range of global consultations.

There are in fact eight taskforces – interlining; shopping and booking process (including servicing); payment, ticketing and settlement process; airline profile definition and management; fare management; legal and data privacy; the resolution itself; and the impact/acceptance by airlines.
NDC will not be mandatory and it will be many years before some airlines wish to make the investment required to migrate to this new language.

I think it is really important for the Australian travel industry to know that AFTA is heavily involved in the NDC process. We are, of course, putting forward the importance of the travel agent at every opportunity. If along the way we find within the detail something that we believe would be detrimental to travel agents, there are many courses of action open to us including the possible involvement of the ACCC.

• I am really pleased with the progress and take-up for the 2013 NTIA in Australia and via the categories launched in New Zealand. We set out to make 2013 even bigger and better than our program in 2012 and the industry has responded very positively. If you have not yet booked, I would not wait any longer. We are in a bigger venue but it is filling up rapidly.

Jay Westbury’s AFTA View column appears monthly.