Iata’s move to change the way agents sell flights has moved from “concept to reality”, the association said this week as it outlined progress on five pilot projects for a New Distribution Capability (NDC).
NDC is touted to bring Amazon-style shopping to air fares, enabling carriers to make personal offers to customers through agents. But agents risk being caught in the middle as NDC appears set to reduce the grip of global distribution systems (GDSs) on third-party distribution, allowing airlines to cut costs as new technology suppliers step in. Iata expects a first group of airlines to adopt NDC in 2015 and more widespread adoption in 2016-17.
A string of airline and Iata figures extolled the virtues of NDC at the Iata World Passenger Symposium in Dublin this week.
Aer Lingus chief executive Christoph Mueller said: “Technology needs to support our move from being transport companies to retail organisations.
“There is very little hope [existing] technology suppliers will foster development.”Iata director general Tony Tyler said: “There is a gap between airline sites and other channels.
“It’s true GDSs are working on a solution, but
each is working on its own.”
Yanik Hoyles, head of Iata’s NDC programme, insisted: “NDC is not a system, it’s a standard. The objective is to close the gap between airline websites and the agent channel where there is price comparison but no rich content or personalisation.”
But Travelport president and chief executive Gordon Wilson argued: “There’s a lot of misinformation. We need a grown-up dialogue. Our job is to distribute airline product as airlines want, subject to providing informed choice, because airlines don’t want to say what the other guy is offering.”