ATPCO and Farelogix have joined forces to develop an Ancillary Offer Engine that will take airlines, travel agencies, and GDSs closer to the early vision of IATA’s New Distribution Capability, in an “elegantly simple” fashion.
The Offer Engine combines Farelogix’ FLX Merchandise engine with ATPCO’s Optional Services data to deliver merchandising offers to all an airline’s distribution channels using an NDC-compliant web service. FLX Merchandise adds pricing capability to the system.
“It may not be the full soup to nuts, but we’re getting there,” Jim Davidson, chief executive officer of Farelogix, said. “It’s simple and cost-effective.”
Tom Gregorson, managing director of product strategy and development at ATPCO, said that140 airlines use Optional Services. “We want to enable that through NDC,” he said.
ATPCO has been working with airlines for years on ancillary services, Gregorson said. “During our discussions with both airlines and systems, it became apparent that an ancillary offer engine deployed as a web service was a fundamental industry need.”
The NDC web service deployment eliminates the expensive and lengthy development process for airlines and aggregators that want to implement a single-sourced merchandising solution for all sales channels, both direct and indirect.
Some previous implementations of ancillary sales capabilities in GDSs have taken months, even years, although it’s not clear how much of that time was spent on actual deployment, as opposed to hammering out the details.
Any GDS that has an NDC connection will be able to implement the Offer Engine quickly and easily, Davidson said. “And they all have one,” he said. Amadeus consumes United’s Economy Plus seat data via an NDC connection; Travelport uses it to link its Merchandising Platform with some airlines, and American and Sabre, once nearly mortal enemies over the connection issue, use an NDC-compliant link to sell American’s paid seats.
That Farelogix and ATPCO are working together shows how far the NDC conversation has evolved. When the NDC concept was first introduced, some of its proponents believed that it would put an end to fare filing altogether.
Each fare would be individually crafted according to the passenger’s status, purchasing patterns and history with the airline in terms of delays, cancellations or other problems. In addition, the passenger would have the option of providing demographic information to personalize the offer further.
The airlines have modified that goal, however, since creating fares from scratch for the millions of people who fly once a year is not very practical. And IATA was pummeled in the press and by some trade associations for seeming to suggest that passengers would be required to disclose their marital status, income and other personal data in order to receive an offer.