Iata has admitted it should have consulted agents ahead of launching its New Distribution Capability (NDC), which threatens to bypass GDSs.
The airline association unveiled its NDC project last year without consultation and Aleks Popovich, Iata’s senior vice-president for industry distribution, admitted last week it should have “got agents on side” first.
Popovich told the Sita summit on aviation technology in Brussels: “We positioned NDC as selling via HTML [online] through travel agents.
“The goal is that airline products can be sold to customers through all the channels airlines wish.
“Would we do something differently with hindsight? Yes. We should have built some collaboration – worked with travel agents rather than start from such a low base [of co-operation].”
Popovich argued Iata’s relations with agents are strained because “we manage members’ money and from time to time we default agents’ membership [of Iata].” He said:
“We have to build some credibility. That is the thing I’ve learnt [in the past year]. We should have spent time listening.”
However, he added: “I don’t think it would have changed the debate because we’re challenging the existing players. We want new entrants [to distribution].”
Kevin Thom, president of the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association, complained in April that Iata had pushed through NDC “without collaboration”, warning: “It could completely change the landscape.”
The Sita summit heard agents still sell 60% of airline seats worldwide, with Iata arguing NDC is key to expanding ancillary sales beyond airlines’ own websites. However, the summit heard airlines expect most ancillary revenue to continue to come direct.
The annual Sita IT Trends survey of airlines forecast 89% of ancillary sales would be direct in 2016.