Travelport Will Facilitate NDC Distribution, But It Still Has ‘Unanswered Questions’

by Michèle McDonald
Travelport Will Facilitate NDC Distribution, But It Still Has ‘Unanswered Questions’

Travelport said it will work with airlines that want to distribute products via IATA’s New Distribution Capability schema – but it won’t partake in pilot programs for NDC anytime soon because its production workload is too heavy.

Travelport’s recent moves – agreeing to connect with American Airlines via its API and the launch of a platform that enables airlines to connect with travel agents via the method of their choice – would seem to be in sync with NDC, at least in spirit.

Out in front?
Travelport is ahead of IATA in providing airlines with distribution options, it said, noting its work with Air Canada connectivity via API; connectivity with KLM via industry standards for the sale of Economy Comfort, and with EasyJet and British Airways via API to sell various products.

“Travelport is a long-standing supporter of industry standards as long as they meet three basic criteria” – transparency, balanced representation and balanced governance, it said.

But Travelport said it has “many unanswered questions” about NDC.

3 key concerns
In a position paper distributed to media at CAPA’s Airlines in Transition conference near Dublin last week, Travelport posed three questions:

1.    If airlines exercise total control over governance, can the IATA NDC truly represent and protect the interests of all stakeholders in the travel value chain, including travel agents and travelers?

2.    Can repeating a failed history serve as a path toward transparency? If the IATA NDC is committed to transparency, why has it selected the Open AXIS standard, which previously failed as a standard for XML distribution, in part because it rejected a governance process that incorporated all parties within the supply chain?

3.    How are consumer rights to privacy and transparency affected by the NDC model?

Let’s look at them one by one.

If airlines exercise total control over governance, can the IATA NDC truly represent and protect the interests of all stakeholders in the travel value chain, including travel agents and travelers?

IATA has said repeatedly that representatives of all stakeholders have been present at planning meetings over the last few months. For their part, GDS companies and agency groups say they have indeed attended meetings, but that they “have not been able to do anything” at those meetings, as one attendee put it.

However, there does seem to be some progress on the communications front.

The World Travel Agents Associations Alliance noted last week that IATA has formed an Agents-Airlines Forum, in which many WTAAA members participate.

The forum “meets regularly to review distribution issues, including NDC,” the WTAAA said. It has met twice so far this year.

Can repeating a failed history serve as a path toward transparency? If the IATA NDC is committed to transparency, why has it selected the Open AXIS standard, which previously failed as a standard for XML distribution, in part because it rejected a governance process that incorporated all parties within the supply chain?

This is a question that has not yet been addressed. It is widely known that the Open AXIS schema was in competition with the OpenTravel Alliance schema to form the basis of NDC standards.

It is also widely known that the OpenTravel schema outscored the Open AXIS schema, which is now under the auspices of ATPCO.

Open AXIS’ schema was donated to the organization by Farelogix, which counts as its customers several airlines that are among the driving forces of NDC, including American Airlines, Air Canada, Delta and US Airways.

Many other airlines – and the GDS companies –have used OpenTravel schema for XML connections for several years, and it is no small task to undo that.

How are consumer rights to privacy and transparency affected by the NDC model?

IATA stated repeatedly that no customer will be obliged to provide personal details in order to receive an airfare quote. It also has stated that it will abide by all privacy laws in all areas of the world.

IATA insists that NDC will provide more transparency, not less, to the shopping process, because it will enable travel agencies to evaluate various offers that include extras, such as priority boarding, premium seating and/or Internet access.

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