All three of the main Global Distribution Systems are working closely with Iata as it develops its New Distribution Capability (NDC), saying they support its broad aims.
The pilot NDC project was announced last year, Iata saying it would turn the current airfare distribution system on its head by introducing new standards to allow airlines to better differentiate.
Although the airline association has said NDC was not about cutting out the GDSs, many see it as a challenge to the status quo.
Speaking in a Travolution debate about the future of distribution at last week’s Travel Technology Show in London, all three GDSs said they supported the fundamental aims of NDC.
But they warned it must not result in an increase on the costs of distribution and said it could be some time before the project gets off the ground.
Hamish Broom, Sabre Travel Network commercial director airline distribution, said: “We are working with Iata.
“The key things we are pushing for is we think it’s very important you have fare transparency and the ability to do comparison shopping and the appropriate use at all times of personal data.
“Provided those things are maintained we can see there are some benefits of working with Iata and innovating as partners.
“But if those things are compromised in any way what we believe will happen is there will be increased costs, which is not what anybody wants.”
Daniel Greaves, Amadeus strategy and marketing communication, airline distribution manager, said the GDS would continue developing its own solutions while NDC was being worked on.
“The NDC initiative is setting out to achieve some reasonable and admirable goals. Everyone would probably support the airlines’ right to differentiate.
“We have been investing in technology to help achieve those goals at Amadeus since at least 2008, in fact since 2005.
“We are very engaged with Iata on the project in a constructive way. We are also very transparent with Iata in the sense of where we believe the project has strengths and where we believe there may be some challenges.
“It’s our view that being involved and saying yes to everything does not necessarily add value.
“We are also moving ahead with initiatives we started on our own long before Iata conceived NDC because NDC will be a long-term project. I think e-ticketing from beginning to end was a 10 to 15 years.
“It [NDC] is a noble ambition and we are there to support the airlines and Iata in achieving those objectives but people need to move forward in the mean time as well.”
Travelport’s Simon Ferguson, UK and Ireland regional director, also agreed with the overall ambition of NDC, but said it was difficult to predict whether it would usher in a new dawn for travel distribution.
“One issues we have with NDC is the manifestation of it currently is so unclear it’s very difficult to see what it could actually become in reality.
“The impressive part of it, which is what it seems Iata would like to create, is a set of standards by which all airlines can participate. This is a good thing and we welcome those.
“We are involved with Iata on a monthly basis discussing it with them, and the best way of making those standards effective and implementable is by dialogue will all parties in the chain.
“What is very difficult to answer is the harder elements of it, how actually it manifests itself and fundamentally who might pay for it.”
Mark Lenahan, vice president of product strategy at Dublin-based technology firm OpenJaw Technologies, added: “We are working with Iata on NDC as well.
“We want to make sure that there is a complete retailing perspective brought into it so it’s not just about air ancillaries but the complete travel needs of the consumer.”