Selling airline ancillary services – hostile agent, GDS reaction to new IATA standard

Issues & Trends – October 2012

Selling airline ancillary services – hostile agent,
GDS reaction to new IATA standard

INITIAL agency and GDS reaction has given the thumbs down to the foundation standard for a “new distribution capability (NDC)” adopted at this month’s IATA passenger service conference in Abu Dhabi.

According to IATA’s announcement: “The NDC will enable airlines to offer more options to customers and to reach them seamlessly across all distribution channels.”

IATA director general Tony Tyler has claimed an NDC is needed to achieve “greater product differentiation than is currently available through GDSs”. (travelBulletin, June)

IATA is claiming “intense co-ordination” with GDSs and travel agents. But AFTA chief executive Jay Westbury expressed disappointment at “a failure to have the travel agent community at the table”.

Noting the current fierce competition between GDS companies, he queried the reaction of competition authorities to the NDC.

Sabre slammed the proposed NDC approach saying: “We do not see how it would work in the real world without sacrificing fare transparency, limiting comparison shopping and compromising data privacy rights.”

The GDS called on IATA to immediately give agents and corporate travel buyers “a meaningful seat at the table when pursuing design and implementation of NDC”. Failure to do so will result in “a model that is unworkable, imbalanced and anti-consumer”, it said.

The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) and Business Travel Coalition (BTC) sharply disputed Tyler’s claim of a transparent, collaborative approach to NDC development. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” said an ASTA statement.

At present, IATA claims, “personalised offers based on availability, customer needs, preferences or histories are effectively impractical” and the NDC will fix that. It says offers will be accessible to passengers “regardless of distribution channel”.

But the IATA announcement has done nothing to allay concerns that some airlines see an opportunity to drive customers to their own websites.