IATA: Airlines Must Help Agents Deliver Value

airlineThe travel distribution reality is that it is much easier for the consumers to access value-added services via an airline website than through the travel agents who account for 60 percent of sales. So said Tony Tyler, IATA Director General and CEO, at the opening of last month’s World Passenger Symposium in Dublin. 

“This gap exists because distribution via travel agents is built on pre-Internet messaging standards. These don’t have the same capabilities as XML, the language of Internet-based commerce,” he said.

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Tyler said IATA is working with its travel agent and travel technology partners to close that gap through the New Distribution Capability (NDC). “While global distribution system (GDS) companies are moving to make it possible for airlines to merchandize their products in a manner more consistent with airlines’ own websites, each is developing its own proprietary solution,” Tyler said. “Aviation was built on global standards. Consistent with that, NDC will be an open standard available to any and all who want to use it.”

NDC also responds to passenger demand for customization and personalization, he said. According to IATA’s 2013 Global Passenger Survey, almost one-half of travelers are interested in sharing such things as travel preferences, age, interest/hobbies and frequent flyer status in order to receive special offers or products and services from airlines tailored to their needs; and a fifth would share their social media profile as well.

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“The NDC standard will unleash innovation—and that will mean change. But, let me assure you of a few things. NDC will operate within the same privacy laws that govern every other business. That is no change from today. But, by giving travel agents more information, there will be greater transparency,” said Tyler.

“We are making strong progress on NDC. The application for approval of Resolution 787, which is the foundation document for NDC, is before the US Department of Transportation (DOT), and we are optimistic of a positive outcome in the fourth quarter that will permit adoption of schemes under development. Meanwhile, we are encouraging airlines, travel agents and technology providers to join the pilot phase which is expected to continue through 2014,” said Tyler.

The goal, he said, is to “ensure that what we see as ‘service’ actually means ‘value’ to our customers.” During the Dublin conference major U.S. and European stakeholders—including travel agent associations—urged greater cooperation with IATA on the NDC implementation.