Is the travel industry ready to embrace NDC?
Since the launch of NDC in October 2012, IATA has emphasized that it is up to the market to decide whether the vision behind an XML-based industry standard for third party distribution will be embraced.
Nearly three years into the program I believe it is fair to say that the vision is more and more becoming accepted—although naysayers certainly exist.
From the start of the program it was very clear to us that an XML-based industry standard would open the door to increased product differentiation, faster time to market and more innovation in airline distribution, while delivering the level of transparency and choice travel agents, corporate buyers and travelers seek.
Significantly, this potential was acknowledged by the US Department of Transportation (DOT) in its approval of Resolution 787, the foundation document for NDC.
As Eric Leopold, director transformation, financial & distribution services at IATA highlighted in his recent blog post, this vision needs to be properly understood and shared by most industry stakeholders in order to become a reality.
Is it reality? Let’s look at what has happened since the NDC program was initiated three years ago:
· The industry collaboratively produced and released three versions of the NDC schemas, the latest version covering the following functional domains: Shopping, Booking, Servicing, Payment and Ticketing. A fourth version that will include interlining and airline profile will come out before the end of the year.
· Between 2013 and 2015, IATA conducted more than 50 airline alignment sessions with global, regional, full-service and low cost airlines worldwide. As a result of these sessions, 32 airlines, including American Airlines, British Airways, United Airlines, Qatar Airways, Qantas, Lufthansa and SWISS, chose to embark on NDC pilot and deployment projects.
· Together with key industry players, IATA launched a number of advisory committees to ensure the NDC program takes into account the realities of major stakeholders. In 2013, we created the Passenger Distribution Group Advisory Forum (PDGAF) to incorporate the views of online travel agencies, travel management companies and technology vendors, and more recently organized our first Travel Manager Advisory Group (TMAG) with buyers from key Europe-based corporations.
· IATA has partnered with a coalition of 7 national travel agency associations to collaborate on a study of travel agents in Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa, the UK and the US. Undertaken by more than 1,000 travel agents, the outcome of the survey will be released shortly and enable the industry to determine options that could benefit travel agents as NDC is being implemented by airlines and technology companies.
Most recently, IATA hosted three NDC Regional Workshops where 200+ representatives from more than 75 airlines and 19 technology companies met to showcase their NDC solutions.
These technology companies included the three GDSs, Amadeus, Sabre and Travelport, as well as the following vendors: ATPCO, Datalex, Farelogix, IBS Software, HP, JR Technologies, Lufthansa Systems, Navitaire, OAG, OpenJaw, Paxport, PROS, Reserve, SITA, Travelfusion, TravelSky and Vayant.
Besides the educational and networking opportunities they provided, these workshops further demonstrated how both communities see NDC as a driver for further simplification, better customer experience and finally, increased value.
Looking at these many developments, I would be tempted to say that airlines (including non-IATA members), technology companies and a growing number of travel agents and travel managers are ready to embrace NDC as the right option to modernize the way air travel is being retailed.
Yet, there are many challenges in the journey. It will take time and will require extensive knowledge sharing between airlines, technology companies and other stakeholders. The good news is that the foundations for the full adoption of the standard across the industry are here, and supported by more and more established industry players.
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