What a year – NDC now no longer disruptive to physics of distribution
January 2013 – the month when relations between many parties involved in the then short lifespan of IATA’s (in)famous New Distribution Capability (NDC) project started getting tense.
Over the course of that month, and then onwards during 2013:
- Tnooz published its Decoding NDC analysis (an article which inevitably irked folk on both sides of the argument).
- Groups jockeying for position behind the scenes first saw the OpenAXIS standards group “bought” by ATPCO and then – lo and behold – OpenAXIS picked as the technology standard for NDC. Joy for the likes of Farelogix.
- Briefing and counter-briefing of the press, for and against NDC, started in earnest.
- Travelport launched its merchandising platform at the CAPA event in Dublin – a sign to IATA and others that, despite the furore over NDC, some of the existing players were going to carry on regardless with efforts to provide enhanced ancillary platforms for airlines.
- Heated words, albeit via op-eds in Tnooz, between IATA’s Aleks Popovich (Fear and Loathing) and Christoph Klenner of ETTSA (Groundhog Day).
By the time of the GBTA Europe conference in the Czech Republic capital of Prague, with the same arguments (and protagonists) battling it out on-stage and seemingly not making any headway at all, many (including Tnooz) were growing tired of it all and yearning for something to happen.
And, indeed, it did.
Something happened during the autumn of 2013 – there was talk of some groups softening their stance; IATA conceded it had messed up the PR battle over NDC; handshakes in darkened rooms and late-night drinks in bars, at least to try and move on from the dirge of unhelpful rhetoric.
Despite the launch of, some argued, a somewhat peculiar and oddly timed anti-NDC lobbying group at the, err, IATA conference in Ireland, and confirmation of the first booking made at a pilot project, by December it appeared there would be some kind of official “peace in the valley” soon enough.
A few weeks into January 2014 and that early détente has seemingly been reached, with IATA (with Open Allies), proposing conditions should be included in the hoped for approval of 787 resolution currently being heard (for months) at the Department of Transportation in the US.
Travelport – arguably not as outraged in its comments about NDC over the past 18 months as some of its counterparts – is now, nevertheless, lending its backing to the NDC initiative.
Chief commercial officer Kurt Ekert, speaking after a session at the company’s eVolve event in Monaco this week, says the position at IATA has “fundamentally changed” over the course of the past 12 months and, as a provider of distribution to airline and intermediary customers, Travelport now supports it.
“We previously had a problem with it,” Ekert explains. “IATA, through NDC, was unilaterally trying to impose changes to the physics of travel distribution.”
“Now, it [NDC] is about revenue growth for airlines and partners, and how to do it in the right way, through standards,” he says.
Perhaps there is a somewhat stark redefining of positions from many of those involved, compared to this time last year, but Ekert says if the principles remain then a system which “benefits all” is possible.
“Travelport wants to get to a world which has airline APIs that are simple to connect to,” Ekert argues, with NDC now potentially seen as a process by which GDSs, travel technology providers and intermediaries can do so “efficiently for everyone”.
It is easy to speak with the benefit of hindsight, and with many of the protagonists privately patting themselves on the back for seemingly sorting it all out, but there is a sense of relief in many quarters that now is the time move on.
From his perspective, Ekert claims: “We were always optimistic that we [all] would get to this point.”
NB: Disclosure – Flights and accommodation for the author’s attendance at the eVolve event was supported by Travelport.
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.