Despite substantial criticism - including from U.S. agents and major trade groups - the International Air Transport Association (IATA) 69th Annual General Meeting (AGM) reaffirmed its support for the New Distribution Capability (NDC) initiative. "This will develop an open, XML-based distribution standard for data exchange between airlines and travel agents," IATA predicted, asserting that some NDC critics are not telling the truth about NDC.
In a unanimously approved AGM Resolution, IATA members agreed that, “consumers will benefit from being able to make choices based on enriched content and the ability to compare and transact airline offers in a transparent fashion.”
Consumers already have the ability to view rich content when they visit many airline websites, including bundled and no frills fare offers and personalization, as well as the ability to see graphic depictions of products and services available for sale, IATA said.
"In most cases, however, travel agents do not have access to the same information and services through their systems. The XML-based NDC standard will close this merchandizing gap, providing consumers with the same shopping experience regardless of how and where they do their travel shopping," IATA said.
“Consumers want to be able to buy air travel products in the same way that they purchase other goods, with full access to product information, the ability to comparison-shop and to see the full value of the offer. And we want our travel agent partners to be able to offer it. NDC will enable this to happen,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
The AGM Resolution affirmed that NDC will support current shopping methods, including the ability for consumers to compare base fares and to do so without identifying themselves (“anonymous shopping”). The AGM Resolution also noted that consumers will be protected by data privacy protection laws and regulations regardless of how and where they choose to purchase air travel, according to IATA.
Additionally, members confirmed that airlines and other industry players will be free to decide whether or not to adopt NDC to support some or all of their distribution needs, and that IATA would continue to support the existing legacy standard while demand for it exists.
The AGM Resolution adds further momentum to the NDC initiative, IATA argued. The NDC foundation standard was agreed by the Passenger Service Conference in late 2012 and has been submitted to the US Department of Transportation (DOT) for approval. IATA XML schemas to support NDC pilots are now available for download at www.IATA.org and live pilots will be underway by year end, IATA said.
In his keynote State of the Industry address to the AGM, Tyler expressed confidence in regulators understanding the value that NDC will bring to consumers and supporting its development. Tyler noted that NDC faces some opposition for incumbent interests:
“Frankly, some of our opponents are not telling the truth. Let me clear the air with some facts. NDC will not contravene privacy laws. Nothing in the NDC standard requires passengers to supply personal information to receive an offer. But it does provide the opportunity for customers to identify themselves—if they so choose—to have their loyalty recognized by the airlines," Tyler said.
"NDC will not bypass travel agents. It will enable them to sell all of what airlines have on offer. And, NDC will not eliminate comparison shopping. It will give customers better information on which to make decisions. NDC will support photographic product descriptions so that people can see what they are buying. And it will enable passengers to compare the base fare as well as the cost of all the options that are available," Tyler said.