Iata’s New Distribution Capability standard is approaching a tipping point as the technology matures, but it’s not there yet, delegates at last week’s Travel Technology Europe were told.
Fahim Khan, product delivery director at travel management company Reed & Mackay, said the latest version of NDC, 17.2, is supposed to be a game-changer.
This is the version that is expected to establish API (Application Programme Interface) standards that will not be revised in future updates.
Khan said: “This is the first API standard that won’t be ripped up and started again every time they release a new version.
“This will allow GDSs, aggregators, and TMCs to invest in the development and build on that. Before you only had the big players who had the resources to say I’m going to do that development and throw it away and start again.
“17.2 will be the point where things start to change. This is really, really exciting.”
The TTE session on how firms can capitalise on new opportunities in travel retailing heard that the old world of distributing through traditional ATPCO rules won’t be replaced over night.
GDS Sabre said it was preparing for a world in which NDC runs parallel to the old methods of distribution but that it was also looking to beyond NDC.
Alessandro Ciancimino, EMEA general manager for Sabre airline solutions, said there were still only a handful of airlines really investing in NDC.
“Being certified is one thing, it doesn’t mean you are investing. Of course, it will grow going forward, but we need to keep the old traditional world still going in parallel.”
Ciancimino said the upside of the NDC project will only come if personalised offers are made to the consumer at the right time.
He said Sabre was “ready to go” to build the systems that will go beyond NDC. “We are currently working with airlines in building our roadmap together with them.
“We are ready with the right capabilities for when the airlines are ready for them. It will not do anyone any favours if we build something that’s not consumable by the airlines.”
Ciancimino added it was still too early to say what the commercial model for NDC will be.
“We have not had discussions around the commercial model,” he said. “There was an initial perception that NDC was going to be the new cheap distribution model for airlines.
“It may be, it may not be. We are not there yet, we need to first understand what are the capabilities, the business model that enables that, then we will define the commercials.
“It’s all about the value this new model will deliver. Based on that the commercial model will flow.”
Khan said the inability to service bookings by making changes and offering refunds using NDC remains the biggest single area of concern because this is the value of the TMC.
“NDC does feel it’s not quite at that stage yet. We are missing consistency across all airlines. Some are doing it on their own, some are working with Farelogix.
“It’s hard to take all that content and provide it in a really clean and simple way to either agent or user.
“We are probably still at the early stages. As an industry we have made huge progress with NDC but I think we still have a huge amount of work to do to bring it up to speed.”