Trade throws support behind IATA’s NDC


Clifford: Implementation must begin from carriers

TRAVEL industry players are backing the implementation of IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC), with technology providers, agents and airlines alike saying that the standard protocol will be a boon for all parties in the distribution chain.

When IATA first announced NDC at the IATA Passenger Services Conference in Abu Dhabi in 2012, it drew strong reactions from the trade, with Mobile Travel Agents Australia’s managing director Roy Merricks, for instance, calling it “the biggest threat to travel consultants since commission cuts”.

But this is merely because NDC has been misunderstood, said Conrad Clifford, IATA regional vice president Asia-Pacific. “We ran into some communication issues when we first launched but we like to think we have since moved past it,” he said.

Agreeing, Jay Westbury, chairman, World Travel Agents Association Alliance (WTAAA), said NDC is not about cutting out the agent and the GDS. “Nothing can be farther from the truth,” he stated.

Commenting on the situation, Damian Hickey, Travelport’s vice president Asia-Pacific, air commerce, said: “In the first year of coming out with NDC, the communication was terrible because it was vague. People didn’t know if it was a technology standard or a business model. Was it the death of the GDS or the travel agent? Was it the airlines trying to drive cost out of the industry? They didn’t know what it was.”

“So it is really just a technology standard to make it richer and easier for airlines to distribute products in the indirect channels. It doesn’t mean they are trying to get rid of the travel agent, it does quite the opposite because they are investing into the standard to make it better for the travel agent,” Hickey explained.

Still, the drive for NDC implementation has to begin from the carriers, admitted Clifford. “The impetus has to come from the airlines and the good thing is that that is happening. More than 50 per cent of IATA member airlines will implement NDC within the next four years,” he said.

As well, Jacob Jiang, assistant president of HK Express, thinks the new distribution standard is also a force for interline cooperation between budget carriers and full-service ones.

However, Hickey said that Travelport can’t afford to wait idly for NDC to be ready as they have to serve their agency customers at the present. “But we will tell our customers that we’ll be able to connect via NDC when we get there,” he added.

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