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:

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.

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Kevin May

About the Writer :: Kevin May

Kevin May was a co-founder and member of the editorial team from September 2009 to June 2017.



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  1. Timothy O'Neil-Dunne

    A few words about this “Peace in our Time” announcement. That the announcement is a good thing is beyond doubt – with a diffusing of the atmosphere of contentious players.

    However the issues/problems that begat NDC are not going away with this type of accord. The core issue remains that there needs to be a new framework of technology infrastructure that permits an airline to distribute their products similarly (note not exactly) through direct and indirect channels. Any company who wishes to be a player must be able to provide solutions and will have to demonstrate that their channel is capable of matching the needs of the supply chain. If they cannot achieve that then they have no place in distributing the supply. This applies to the intermediaries as well as the providers of infrastructure.

    Personalization is but one part. Product capability and dynamic product management are a per-requisite for the sale of an airline (indeed any travel) product or service. The current structures of the airline distribution system is far to complicated, cumbersome and inefficient to permit that. This has to change and it will not be quick or easy to do that. It is understandable that the current players in the downstream channels do not wish to change. But change they must and not in a small step way.

    This accord has not changed that need. However its a good start. First part of any resolution is knowing that you have a problem to start with.

    Finally I would add that there has to be a realistic commercial framework for this entire change to be meaningful and practical. That will require a significant change in the GDS contracting upstream (Airline Participating Carrier Agreements) and downstream (Agency Subscriber Agreements). I still believe that we have that battle in front of us.




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