One can say that the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) New Distribution Capability (NDC) API standard is all about making communication between airlines and travel agents faster and more efficient, getting more products out on the market, and making life easier and the travel experience richer for today’s traveler.
So in short, UK-based solutions provider Travelport will manage IATA’s NDC standard for its customers, which include airlines, travel agencies, corporations and travel management companies (TMCs).
And according to speakers at this week’s Travelport LIVE in Rome: it’s a one-way street.
More Control, More Commercial Opportunities
“Most airlines have joined NDC or have NDC plans, I would be surprised if they didn’t,” said David Rutnam, IATA Head of Distribution Europe, speaking during Travelport LIVE in Rome this week. Rutnam said that if airlines want to gain more control of their products and boost profits particularly amid growing competition, they must begin seeking solutions that will ensure more personalized traveler experiences.
“NDC is a roadmap… from an airline perspective, they can – through all of their distributors, whether its Travelport or some other – get the same functionality as they do from their websites… open up to more commercial opportunities, get much better content, whether that’s videos, virtual reality, great pictures… to be able to personalize, to be able to broaden channels, to be able to say ‘I know want you want’,” explained Rutnam, on Wednesday.
IATA’s distribution chief believes it is also a key opportunity for dynamic pricing. “Airlines are looking to react much quicker to changing conditions in order to affect their pricing.”
This said, Rutnam urged all airlines to get on board fast. “I want it now, get moving, don’t wait.”
All industry insiders in Rome this week agreed that NDC integration will require a period of trail and error before its application bears fruit.
In view of this transition, which is bound to involve different work flows, processes and time frames, “it is our challenge as a partner to isolate you from that as much as possible,” said Travelport’s Global Vice President and Global Head of Airline Partners, Damian Hickey.
“We have a significant investment, it is complex, to try and normalize all that activity and minimise the impact to agents,” he added.
Hickey announced that Travelport would be launching its first NDC content this quarter through its smart point app with a major European airline. With regards to which airlines have moved ahead with NDC integration, Hickey noted that there was a high level of engagement but due to confidentiality, more could not be revealed.
According to Travelport’s VP and MD Southern Europe and Northern Africa Damiano Sabatino, the NDC standard and the transparency ensured via Travelport, which is the first NDC Level 3 Certified aggregator, offers airlines “an added value”.
Sabatino told GTP Headlines, in Rome on Wednesday, that carriers are testing new concepts and are looking into ways to maximize their products and gain insight into ways to best sense the needs of their customers.
“Travel is not like it was in the past. Travel is now very much a part of daily reality, particularly among the Millennials and Gen Z.”
NDC in Greece
In the meantime, to smooth out the transition, several carriers have already proceeded with NDC plans. IATA has opened an NDC Registry of successful certified airlines – either NDC-Certified or NDC-Capable; or self-declared as XML-Capable – and the schema versions they are using.
In Greece, Lufthansa Group launched its NDC Partner Program last month offering through a new website in English and German access to information and NDC API solutions.
Through Lufthansa’s NDC program, partners have access to bundled offers, exclusive content, solutions of the NDC API, sales support and training programs – all in one go.
Greek carrier AEGEAN Airlines has also joined the IATA NDC registry, currently holding NDC Level 2 certification.
IATA first presented its NDC standard to Greek travel agents in 2013.
According to IATA, NDC leaderboard airlines are: Aeroflot, Air Canada, AirFrance, American Airlines, Austrian, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, Cathay Pacific, China Southern, Finnair, Iberia, jetBlue, KLM, Lufthansa, Quntas, Qatar, SAS, Singapore Airlines, SunExpress, Swiss, and United.