ACTA/IATA NDC Webinar Shows Some Agents Still Confused

Open Jaw
by Bruce Parkinson

If the questions following an ACTA/IATA webinar on NDC (New Distribution Capability) are any indication, a number of travel sellers remain a little fuzzy on the concept. “Agents still seem confused,” said Antonio Carbone, NDC Regional Implementation Manager Americas, after questions about how much NDC will cost agencies and where they can buy it.

The ‘NDC Standard’ is a new XML-based data transmission standard that Carbone describes as “a bridge to close the gap between airline websites and what agents can see on their screens.”

“We’re not selling anything,” Carbone said. “Agents should see NDC as an enabler to help them become more competitive and customer-focused and to make selling airline ancillary products more efficient.”

Carbone spent over 25 years as an agency and tour company owner before joining IATA. He says the airline organization has been listening to the concerns of agents over NDC.

Agent perceptions of NDC got off to a bad start in the early days of the project, when IATA’s limited consultation with agent stakeholders made them feel cut out of the process.

“IATA wants to improve the relationship. Airlines still need the travel agents. We appreciate you and we want you on our side,” Carbone said during the 45 min. webinar hosted by ACTA’s Director, Digital & Communications Marco Pozzobon.

Who Benefits From NDC?

Carbone says there are clear benefits from NDC for every stakeholder in airline distribution:

  • Airlines get the ability to differentiate themselves, which until now they’ve only been able to do on their own websites.
  • Travel agents get access to full and rich content, and real-time product and fare data.
  • Travel buyers and travellers get the right products at the right prices and have the opportunity to shop based on what they value as well as travel policy.

Carbone says a dozen airlines now have live NDC-based solutions with another 20 carriers in the process of development.

“Fifteen of the top 20 airline groups are engaged with NDC projects and the overall market is getting engaged too, including GDS companies, 16 technology vendors that have already created solutions, the trade, buyers and travellers.” 

While no Canadian carrier logos were on the slide of NDC-participating airlines, Carbone said that Air Canada and other carriers in the region will be announcing initiatives with NDC “very soon.”

What’s In It For You?

Addressing the industry’s current distribution limitations will help agents enhance their value to clients by giving them efficient access to everything that exists on the website of an airline, Carbone says. Other benefits include:

  • More control.
  • Ability to offer a better value proposition.
  • Stronger ability to describe and present airline product.
  • Ability to create offers that take into account client preferences and history.

Carbone says agents interested in finding out more about how the NDC Standard can improve their ability to sell air products can talk to their GDS providers or the many technology vendors who are building NDC-based products. 

IATA has plenty of NDC information on its website, including a series of educational videos.

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