IATA View – March 2013


IATATalking with airlines to ensure NDC works for the whole industry

By Aleks Popovich, senior vice president industry distribution
and financial services IATA


IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) represents a unique opportunity to modernise air travel distribution. Currently airlines use internet programing language (XML) on their websites and are able to offer travel consumers an online shopping experience similar to retail websites such as Amazon.com.

The Global Distribution Systems (GDSs) use a less flexible pre-internet message protocol. This legacy infra-structure cannot efficiently support modern retailing practices such as personalised and customised offers.

An airline that offers some extra leg room or a special meal option cannot entice the customer with this added value when selling through travel agents because the GDSs cannot currently present that information effectively and attractively. Furthermore, in most cases, the airline does not know anything about the customer until the reservation is made, making it difficult to personalise the offer.

That’s where NDC comes in. NDC is an IATA-led collaborative industry initiative to define a messaging standard through the indirect channel similar to those available on airline websites.

Using an XML-based standard, NDC will enable a dynamic, vibrant marketplace that is not possible with today’s closed proprietary systems.

The NDC foundation standard was approved in October 2012. The next step is to conduct trials, which could begin as early as April. NDC will bring to travel agents the ability to offer travellers the same products and services they often can only find on an airline’s website. But there are some misperceptions that need to be addressed:

Customers will not have to surrender their privacy to compare fares or services and amenities. But consumers will benefit by providing additional information. In this regard buying air travel through NDC will be no different than other shopping experiences, such as grocery and department stores providing discounted offers to “club members”. Furthermore, airlines will have to conform to privacy laws concerning the collection and use of personal data – just as they do today.

It will be possible to compare fares using NDC and that the intent is not to cut GDSs and travel agents out of the system. There is a “content aggregator” role in NDC to enable comparison shopping. Additionally NDC will help travel agents add value to their clients by allowing for comparisons of product and service options that today is only available on individual websites. It will facilitate the easy sale of ancillary products.

NDC welcomes broad participation of travel agent community in development of NDC standards and determining the business requirements. IATA has and continues to engage with all participants in the travel chain including travel agents, agent associations, airlines, GDSs and other technology providers.

travelBulletin was happy to respond to an IATA request to put its viewpoint on NDC to the Australian travel industry in our pages.