Google is open for pilots of IATA NDC-style airline distribution

The airline distribution industry has heard a lot about IATA’s new distribution capability (NDC) — the XML-based data transmission standards it is hoping will replace today’s less flexible standards.

The first set of usable NDC messages went live at the start of September, three years after the project was first mentioned.

Talking of technology partners, an aside at the end of the Wednesday morning session from Yanik Hoyles, director of the NDC programme, was almost lost in the rush for lunch. He said:

“Google is now open for pilots.”

Attempts to pin down the Google execs in attendance at the event for more details proved fruitless, beyond their confirming that they were ready to talk to airlines and that the revelation “wasn’t really news”.

Google was not one of the 19 travel tech firms which took part in a series of regional workshops this summer.

One of the main pillars of NDC was to open airline content to new technology providers — such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple.

While Google is not new in the space – it bought ITA Software in 2010 – its confirmed involvement in NDC could be the big news story of 2017.

An idea of what Google might be able to do came up later in the day via a brief presentation from Brazilian metasearch Voopter. It showed a mocked-up screenshot of its search results which featured rich content from would-be NDC-enabled airlines alongside content from airline dotcoms not using NDC.

The idea was that searchers got a fuller picture, literally, of what the airlines had on offer, potentially making a purchase decision based on value not cost — moving metas away from their price focus.

When IATA was first talking about NDC that’s all it kept on going on about, that it wanted to create a standard and a pipe of content so that the likes of Google, Facebook, Apple people not from these parts, in time could plug into it.

With Google showing an interest, that suggests IATA may have been on to something.

A couple of years ago, Paul Richer, owner of travel technology consultancy Genesys, speculated that Google might benefit the most from IATA’s NDC. He noted:

“NDC could be good for Google, technologically: It would essentially be able to plug yield (availability) information right into its servers, rather than using the patchwork solution that it has today.

Google Flights could be able to use NDC to connect to many airlines and receive up-to-the-minute flight availability and pricing.

Think of a scenario where Google, with its massive user base, offers airlines the opportunity to participate in Google Flights at a cost lower than airlines’ GDS/travel agent distribution costs.

If you were in charge of your airline’s distribution, would you not jump at the chance to be part of Google Flights? Not only would you be lowering your distribution costs but Google Flights would be passing travellers directly to your website where you could then regale them with enticing upsell offers.”

That said, Google’s purchase — ITA Software — has long offered a merchandising solution that lets airlines create and distribute tailored customer offerings. And it has been an early adopter of XML standards. So this news may just be a natural progression of events.

Yet the implications for the industry could be larger.

SIDE NOTE: Some cross-stage remarks left some audience attendees under the impression that Voopter was being invested in by the NDC Innovation Fund. The fund the the startup say that’s not correct.

One source tells Tnooz that Voopter has the IATA NDC fund term sheet but they did not get it signed before the conference. The hope is that this will be completed soon but it is unclear. Voopter wasn’t talking.

EARLIER TODAY: Our report from WPS2015: IATA claims solid progress with its New Distribution Capability

MORE ANALYSIS: Might Google benefit the most from IATA’s NDC?

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Martin Cowen

About the Writer :: Martin Cowen

Martin Cowen is contributing editor for tnooz and is based in the UK. Besides reporting and editing, he also oversees our sponsored content initiative and works directly with clients to produce articles and reports. For the past several years he has worked as a freelance writer, specialising in B2B distribution and technology. Before freelancing, from 2000-2008, he was launch editor for, the first online-only B2B daily news service for the UK travel sector.



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  1. SWTechnologies

    I believe it is a good collaboration between the two companies. It will boost the power of Google and will help travelers by providing specific information.

  2. Andy Newman

    I think NDC is good for Google. Google’s strength has been in inferring meaning from a single search box and has been constrained in exploiting ITA because of the reliance on a multi input planner to yield results. The new data structures that NDC should be able to support should help transform how people search and play to Google’s strengths.

  3. Glenn Wallace

    “NDC could be good for Google, technologically: It would essentially be able to plug yield (availability) information right into its servers, rather than using the patchwork solution that it has today.”

    So ITA’s DACS mentioned prominently in the Google DOJ agreement is a “patchwork” solution?

    Also Google has to strike a careful balance with the very large advertisiers Expedia and Priceline… so if they are building something it probably has to be a level playing field for suppliers and OTAs.

    • Sean O'Neill

      Sean O'Neill

      Google Flights is the fastest metasearch out there today. But it doesn’t dynamically display fare families from airlines and the various merchandising and frequent-flier-relevant/personalized options that it could. NDC-style changes could get it closer to that.

      See also: Expedia’s plans to add richer content:

      Yup, one investment analyst estimated that 5% of Google’s ad revenue comes from Expedia Inc and Priceline Group combined. That has a gravitational pull of its own, I’m sure.

      • Glenn Wallace

        I am not sure how Google can do an meta search that “instantly” personalizes options by contacting each airline host system using NDC to find out the right offer for a specific individual… but they are smart people, I am sure they will figure it out.


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