ATPCO incoming CEO pledges important role in future of airline distribution
In an industry full of insidery type organsations and protocols, ATPCO is one of the most important but rarely discussed elements in the food chain.
The Airline Tariff Publishing Company has its roots in the Air Traffic Conference of America in 1945, but its current entity was formed in 1965 as ATP (after it was spun off by the Air Transport Association of America) in a move to create a global passenger airfares database.
The organisation has since evolved into its current guise as an airline-owned (including Air Canada, Air France, ANA, American Airlines, British Airways, Delta, FedEx, Iberia, KLM, Lufthansa, SAS and United) data company.
It distributes the fares to global distribution systems, online travel agencies, other computer reservation systems and government bodies.
Around 450 carriers around the world currently file their airfares through the system, which the organisation claims represents around 97% of scheduled commercial air travel worldwide.
The filing takes place on an hourly basis and it is now also the standard format that IATA uses for baggage rules.
But history and its current position in the airline distribution ecosystem only goes so far, with ATPCO increasingly under scrutiny over its long-term future as new systems and models come into play.
The organisation recently saw a change at the top, with president and CEO Bill Andres retiring after nearly ten years at the helm.
Tnooz asked incoming (from February 2017) boss, Rolf Purzer, about his expectations for ATPCO and views on the airline distribution model, now and in the future.
He is currently chief marketing officer at ATPCO and has previously held senior positions at Lufthansa and Amadeus.
What is the short, medium and long-term vision for ATPCO?
Simply put, my vision for ATPCO is to continue driving the most efficient and flexible airline data distribution process, giving our customers better choice and control over their offers and ultimately, the services they provide the end consumer.
We remain focused on maintaining reliability, throughput speed, and pricing accuracy, 24/7.
To make this happen, over the next three years, I will strengthen ATPCO’s commitment:
- to connect and distribute the world’s most reliable and accurate content
- to invest in the technology and computation to make it happen
- to lead cooperation and standards so that the industry can innovate better and faster together.
We will remain a customer-first organization. Across the airline industry, ATPCO is seen as the single source for the world’s most reliable and accurate content — connecting all players in all distribution models–existing, new and emerging.
Our continued investment in technology and advanced analytics will facilitate how these solutions are developed and delivered; and, working together with all industry players, we will continue to optimize the industry value chain and ecosystem governance to so we can increase the speed of innovation for all – which means better, faster services for the end consumer.
What does ATPCO consider its role to be so far in the supposed revolution taking place in airline distribution?
ATPCO serves as a single source for airline content around the world. We connect all the players in all distribution models–legacy, current and emerging.
ATPCO wants to free the airlines from data and offer limitations, and enable them to distribute more offers in more places.
This is confirmed by the industry, including the six biggest global carriers who sit on our board, as well as the pricing systems that power most global points of sale, including disruptors like Google or Alibaba/Alitrip.
They have told us that the industry needs a central, comprehensive database from which airlines can distribute and market full content.
As the airline industry evolves, we will continue to support all distribution models and enable the industry’s New Distribution Capability (NDC).
Recognizing the current and emerging models will exist side by side, we are facilitating interoperability for our customers between all formats and models.
We cooperate with IATA and all industry partners to innovate together better and faster.
Further, as the technology evolves, we recognize the industry is hungry for access to our content in real-time, in a way that there is seamless interaction and integration with ATPCO systems and distribution infrastructure.
We are developing engines to support offer creation and competitive product monitoring, as well as growing API strategy, to provide customers with real-time access to our content.
You will see, over the next three years, our growing provision to customers with opportunities for deeper integration of data, content, and business rules into more industry processes, including airlines’ own development efforts.
What is the future of fare filing for airlines and will (and how will) ATPCO have to adapt to changes taking place?
Most airlines have confirmed that there is a need for a central data source and that NDC will not put an end to fare filing and filing of ancillary services content.
With branded fares strategies, the amount filed fares and ancillary content with ATPCO will certainly increase; and, personalization of pricing and the bundling of personalized products creates infinite options.
Not all of these options will be filed. Personalization will be handled by dynamic offer adjustment based on filed content.
With MIT and their PODS consortium, ATPCO is driving new solutions to create a feasible solution for dynamic pricing and offer adjustment.
Check back with me in February, after the next Dynamic Pricing Working Group, at which point I’ll be able to share specific industry solutions in development.
How does ATPCO see the importance of ancillaries to the distribution ecosystem and is the organization and its technology dynamic enough to tackle the multiple layers that are required to facilitate the shopping of such products by consumers?
Ancillaries are a necessary for the airlines to achieve strategic retailing, marketing and revenue objectives.
ATPCO believes that we can serve as a rich content provider to all participants in the ecosystem, including established players, new entrants and upcoming disruptors.
Extending the view beyond shopping to the full end-to-end process makes the issue more complex. Ecosystem governance and cooperation becomes an essential skill.
This is another area where ATPCO can help.
Emirates boss Tim Clark recently said the status quo in airline distribution is “not fit for purpose”. Does ATPCO agree and what should be done about addressing the concerns of major airlines?
I’ll refer you back to my last answer.
What can ATPCO do to make the ancillary “catalogue” more universal and usable by multiple parties?
All ATPCO solutions are designed to be industry solutions, usable by multiple parties, so our ancillary products (Optional Services, Branded Fares, and Baggage Calculator) are based on ongoing industry input from the airlines and systems.
Recently we have closely integrated the Dynamic Pricing Working Group requirements and results with ancillary products.
What mistakes (if any) has ATPCO made over the last five years?
I would like to have dedicated more resources towards industry alignment and ecosystem governance.
What distribution models outside of travel does ATPCO consider to be benchmarks for how consumers may shop and buy airline tickets in the future?
Consumer and business traveler expectations, in addition to new and disruptive technologies and services, will drive the evolution of airline data distribution.
As airlines strive to become retailers, we consider e-travel retailers (metasearch/OTA) and tech giants (like Google, Amazon, Alibaba) who control a high percentage of consumer acquisition, as a benchmark.
That said, ATPCO remains driven and positioned to lead across all distribution models – new and emerging. (Expedia, Google and Alibaba/Alitrip subscribe to ATPCO data)
Kevin is senior editor and a co-founder at Tnooz. He was previously editor of UK-based magazine Travolution and web editor of Media Week UK from 2003 to 2005.
He has worked in regional newspapers (Essex Enquirer) and started his career at the Police Gazette at New Scotland Yard in London. He has a degree in criminology, a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism and publishes his first book - a biography about Depeche Mode - in early-2017.