Sita Summit: ‘NDC about setting aside history’, says Iata

Iata’s drive to develop a New Distribution Capability (NDC) is aimed at bringing new entrants to third-party distribution, the airline association has made clear.

Aleks Popovich, Iata senior vice-president for industry distribution and financial services, told the Sita summit in Brussels: “Technology is not the issue. It’s about collaboration and setting aside history.

“The [airlines’] vision is of personalised airline products and services. But we have a 40-year-old system built on pre-internet standards.

“It’s closed to retail in the travel agent channel, when 60% of airline revenue goes through that channel. So there is a big missed retail opportunity.”

Popovich told the summit: “We want to see new entrants. Competition is a good thing.”

Aviation IT specialist Sita works closely with airlines in developing technology and Popovich heads the Iata NDC project which has attracted criticism from Global Distribution Systems (GDSs).

He said: “The hundreds of millions of dollars airlines have invested in product are not visible today when being purchased [through agents].

“NDC is simply an internet-based standard that would allow airlines to catch up. All channels would be open to customers to shop and compare.

“If the passenger chooses to give information, they could get a personalised offer. That is what we are trying to achieve.” He added: “The GDSs are moving in the right direction – Travelport and Amadeus are making strides in this direction.

“[But] the airlines want to be in charge of pushing their product through all channels, including travel agents.” He insisted: “This is not a travel-agent bypass. It will be available to agents, direct or through aggregators.”

Iata intends to launch “a series” of NDC pilots by the end of the year. Popovich said: “This is pro-consumer and pro-competition, no matter what you have heard.”

Sita portfolio management vice-president Helen Porter said: “It’s not going to be an NDC or non-NDC world. It’s going to be both. There will be co-existence.”

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