When IATA myth-busting falls short, let the airline big guns pick up the slack

In recent weeks IATA has done its all to champion the famed New Distribution Capability, including a blog to help dispel some of the so-called myths.

Its effectiveness has been more or less successful depending which side of the fence you sit on and, indeed, barely a week goes by without some from of relentless (in)direct tit-for-tat between NDC fans and enemies (stand up Business Travel Coalition).

Rarely, however do we get an airline’s take on it all, so a British Airways executive speaking at a Travel Technology Initiative event was a big draw.

Enter Jerry Foran, BA’s head of product delivery, revenue management, who proceeds to give the audience IATA’s own presentation on NDC.

He reiterates some of the myth-busting statements around what it is and what it will do – more information and choice, more complete product offers, more ability to comparison shop and more ability to get personalised offers ‘if you choose to do so.’

Then, Foran gets into his stride somewhat crying foul on statements about charging people more based on personal preferences.

“That shows how contentious this is. We have the power to do that today on our website. It’s an outrageous statement and completely untrue.”

There are other untruths, which he refutes, such as the idea that it will result in higher prices, prevent comparison shopping, reduce competition and violate passenger rights which he says:

“It’s a nonsense to think airlines would get away with that, even if we did it would not be for very long, it’s a ludicrous statement.”

Foran goes on to say it’s up to airlines as to if/how they adopt the schema and that none of the conversations with IATA are in ‘anyway commercially-based’.

Now, clearly some gathered from the GDS community and other distribution players were less than convinced as Foran faced questions on speed and cost being passed down the chain:

“No airline is going to role out a product where speed of response is slower than today.

“I don’t think there is any intention to push more cost down the chain as a result of this project. Yes, there are problems to solve which is why it will not be rolled out tomorrow.”

NB: Super-hero image via Shutterstock

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About the Writer :: Linda Fox

Linda Fox is managing editor for Tnooz. For the past decade years she has worked as a freelance journalist across a range of B2B titles including Travolution, ABTA Magazine, Travelmole and the Business Travel Magazine.

In this time she has also undertaken corporate projects for a number of high profile travel technology, travel management and research companies.

Prior to her freelance career she covered hotels and technology news for Travel Trade Gazette for seven years. Linda joined TTG from Caterer & Hotelkeeper where she worked on the features desk for more than five years.



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  1. Rob Wortham

    @Glenn, Yes, I have seen those scoring percentages. I agree that it would help the debate if IATA could provide some convincing arguments (technical or otherwise) for why the Open AXIS schema was chosen over the Open Travel one. I have not done the technical comparison to be able to comment on their relative merits. I guess in the end though, any well adopted standard is better than none.

    VHS, ODBC, MS-DOS, COM are all historical examples of sub optimal technical standards for interfaces, but they all moved the ball forward significantly due to almost universal adoption within their relevant spheres.

    • RobertKCole

      @Rob – Not sure if your one note about your references to VHS & MS-DOS are the best examples.

      VHS rise as the home video cassette recording standard occurred solely because Sony attempted to dictate an industry standard with its technically superior Betamax format (Betacam was used for decades television production industry). JVC and other technology firms rebuffed Sony’s play and developed inferior (but good enough) VHS format and eventually dominated the home video market.

      That is almost the antithesis of what is happening in the airline industry today with IATA NDC.

      As far as MS-DOS is concerned, Microsoft benefitted from IBM’s arrogance/ignorance of the importance of software in the democratization of computing. Bill Gates (undoubtedly advised by his father, a leading Seattle attorney) licensed PD-DOS to IBM, but amazingly managed to keep their intellectual property rights to MS-DOS.

      MS-DOS was made available to what grew into a huge industry of PC-Clone manufacturers and software developers that did not want to be beholden to the edicts of IBM. Microsoft effectively separated software from the control of the hardware manufacturers through MS-DOS (and coding platforms like MS-BASIC.)

      In both cases, thwarting a politically dominant groups ability to exercise control over an industry was undermined – as a result, media creation and personal computing was radically democratized to the benefit of the world community.

      I have a hard time seeing how IATA NDC helps to radically democratize the ability to plan, book and experience travel. And that;s the point. IATA NDC has much less to do with technology than it does with control.

  2. Glenn Gruber

    @Rob, I’m not sure you’ll get much argument from anyone that having a more modern standard message set will help the industry. I think most of the consternation is not about the message schema as it the commercial and business process implications of NDC.

    As to why it took so long to get to the current proposed standard, I direct you to Robert Cole’s recent piece on the subject (http://rockcheetah.com/blog/airline/hotelier-take-iata-new-distribution-capability/). Open Travel Alliance was much further down the road, much sooner. And more so, it appears from Robert’s article that is it currently significantly superior to the IATA standard.

    “Seventy-three empirical criteria were defined [by the IATA Passenger Distribution Group] for the evaluation of the best schema for the NDC initiative. Both the OpenTravel and Open AXIS schemas were presented….The OpenTravel schema narrowly edged out the Open Axis schema by a score of 96% to 48% for an overall score, and 100% versus 56% for the subset of merchandising messages.”

    And the Open Travel schema would fit better within a broader schema of other travel ecosystem players (rail, car, hotel, tours, etc.).

    So if they didn’t take the substantially better technical course, it’s hard to argue that the primary impetus is replacing older technology, no?

  3. Rob Wortham

    I think the key thing about NDC is that it is an attempt by IATA to disrupt the status quo. As I said yesterday at the forum, we currently have many scheduled airlines (hundreds) offering flight product, many intermediaries (thousands) wanting airline product, but very few (four) ways to get access at that product. Its been like that for 30 years, and there’s no way it can remain like that for another 30 years, so something has to give at some point. Remarkable it’s taken so long! Creating a standard message set, and (more importantly) getting agreement from airlines that they will support this standard has to be the best way to open up this market for real competition based on value-add going forwards, not on historical barriers to entry. If the three GDS providers add value and can be competitive commercially, they have nothing to fear and everything to gain from standardised messaging.


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