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April 24
The Romans didn’t get the zero, but airlines will get the Offer ID!

​A rising number of players across the distribution value chain are recognizing the benefits that the NDC Shopping standard will bring: greater product differentiation, greater access to full and rich content and a greater and more transparent shopping experience for the customer.

One of the areas I am often asked about has to do with the assembly of the offer: with the NDC standard, airlines will be able to make sales offers to travel agents without them being prepared by intermediaries – just as airlines do today through their websites.

But how can this be done efficiently? A crucial innovation in NDC, which is not present in the Open Axis and other XML shopping schemas, is the formal tagging of an offer with an ‘Offer ID’ which links a price to a specific set of products. It lists the flights, specifies the payment conditions, the arrangements for making changes and clarifies ancillary products that are included - as well as the price of course.

As a result, the NDC messages become much ‘lighter’ and functional. The airline that created the product offer has ticketing and accounting built entirely around this offer, with no reliance on data from the intermediary except for the chosen payment method. The new controls for order management and ticketing against the ‘Offer ID’ should ensure that the fare to be paid is indeed the valid offer and so eliminate the need for revenue integrity checks and ADMs.

Of course, airlines, agents and aggregators will each need to make their own implementations of the NDC schemas. Airlines will also need to decide individually how much of the full NDC schema will be implemented when it comes to booking and ticketing. For example some airlines may choose to just implement NDC shopping and request their GDS/Aggregator perform booking and ticketing services. 

So why did the earlier XML schemas not include an Offer ID which makes all this possible? I don’t know, just like I don’t know why the Romans never introduced the concept of zero in mathematics. The Romans never managed to develop mathematics to an advanced level, and airlines and agents that miss out on the Offer ID won’t get the full benefit of the NDC standard!

 

April 17
The Business Requirements for NDC are Progressing Well

Two weeks ago, we enjoyed significant progress with regards to standard development, as representatives from 7 IATA Member airlines and 9 System Providers and other business partners gathered at our Geneva offices for the PADIS Messaging Week to:

  1. Review and validate the business requirements for NDC Booking, Airline Profile, Interline (for ancillary services only)
  2. Examine the business requirements for NDC Payment & Ticketing
  3. Review and validate the change requests to the NDC Shopping schemas (version 1.0)
 
What is PADIS?
 

The PADIS Board develops and maintains Electronic Data Interchange and XML message standards for passenger travel and airport-related passenger service activities. For instance, the PADIS message standards support the following application areas:

  • Publication of schedules and slot management
  • Airline shopping
  • Reservations and electronic ticketing, including electronic miscellaneous documents
  • Airport resource management and airport handling, including baggage handling
  • Data exchange between airlines and governments concerning passenger data (PNRGOV)
  • Data exchange between airlines and airports for operational flight related data (AIDX)
  • XML schemas for exchange of data on the bar coded boarding pass (BCBP)

What came out of last week’s PADIS?
 
The PADIS Board responded positively to the submissions as it confirmed that the business requirements for NDC Booking and Interline (for Ancillary Services only) were seen as generally fit for purpose, when those include the descriptions of the data elements in individual messages.
 
The business requirement for NDC Payment & Ticketing also received positive comments while the requirements for Airline Profile are still a work in progress.


What’s next?

Based on the results, the DDXWG’s XML Group will now proceed with reviewing the feedback over the coming two months with a view to enhancing these business requirements and developing the XML schemas to support them; the task force was meeting in Boston last week to come up with a first draft of the schemas.

As a result of this very positive Messaging Week, an extraordinary PADIS meeting will be scheduled for late June via a series of conference calls to review the amended business requirements and proposed schemas.

This is great news for all the innovators and travel startups out there who are keen to start looking at the schemas more closely, in order to develop new ways of retailing air products and deliver brand new air shopping experiences to leisure and business travelers.

March 21
A Year of NDC Pilots

​The first anniversary of the NDC Pilot Phase--which began in February 2013—provides an opportunity to review the achievements and learnings of the past twelve months in this critical aspect of the NDC Program.

How many airlines are participating in the NDC Pilot Phase?

  • Five airlines have launched pilot projects in cooperation with their respective technology (and for some, travel agency) partners
  • Another six airlines are discussing the framework of a next round of pilot projects with the NDC team.

The five pilots that went live in 2013 are:

  1. “Endeavor” by American Airlines, together with JR Technologies and a consolidator
  2. “Skycouch” by Air New Zealand, together with JR Technologies and a consolidator
  3. “SkyDreamer” by Hainan Airlines, together with TravelSky and CTBA
  4. “Sunshine” by China Southern, together with TravelSky and Ctrip
  5. “Alpine” by Swiss, together with HP, PROS and Datalex

What’s the scope of the NDC Pilot Phase?

The first five pilots have focused on the NDC Shopping schemas, using in some instances the airlines’ existing booking and ticketing processes to fulfill the shopping request.

The NDC shopping schemas enable airlines to construct their full product offers and to merchandize their baggage, seat maps and ancillary services, using rich content, in an anonymous or personalized manner.

What’s been the main achievement of this first year?

HU ETICKET.png

 

 

On 29 November 2013, the Chinese online travel agency CTBA issued the first e-ticket resulting from an NDC-based shopping transaction through the TravelSky system. The booking was a one-way trip between Beijing and Hainan Island on flight HU7782 on Hainan Airlines.

Successfully processed, this booking demonstrated interoperability of the NDC Shopping schema with existing airline processes and that it can support China’s domestic travel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What did we learn from this first year of pilots?

Our pilots provided us with a great amount of valuable feedback. As a direct consequence, we are fine-tuning the schemas so the messages can be more efficiently processed by airlines, with reduced impact on their inventory systems.

We will shortly release a version 1.1 of the shopping schemas. This new release will address performance/scalability issues, information model harmonization, compliance with W3C standards and offer consistent error/exception handling.

From a functionality perspective, this new release will support product-only shopping, calendar shopping, group shopping notification, and other functionalities.

What’s next?

While we await approval of Resolution 787 from DOT, we are advancing into the second year of the NDC Pilot Phase, we will make sure to share our learnings from the existing pilots as well as from those that will be initiated in the coming weeks and months.

February 26
NDC in the Making: a Brief Summary of DDXWG #6

​Last week, I was in Montreal for the Distribution Data Exchange Working Group (DDXWG), a key element of the NDC program as it gathers and documents the industry’s business requirements that drive the definition of the NDC schemas.

 
This 6th DDXWG signaled that NDC is drawing broad industry input with more than 70 participants from airlines, travel trade associations and agencies, global distribution systems, and IT providers taking part in the various task forces. Among the new participants, we were delighted to welcome representatives from two new airlines and a leading travel metasearch.
 
Three days…and significant results!
 

As with every DDXWG, much was achieved during the three days of the meeting. Most significantly:

  • The business requirements for Booking (Order Management), Airline Profile and Interlining (for ancillary shopping only) were completed;
  • Based on the learning from the pilots, the changes to the NDC Shopping schemas were presented and agreed upon.

Many thanks for the valuable contributions of all participants!

DDXWG has become a central point for industry collaboration

This 6th edition confirmed that DDXWG is achieving its objective to facilitate the definition of the business requirements in a collaborative and effective manner.

In a brief survey conducted at the end of the meeting, more than 90% of the participants stated that the DDXWG either met or exceeded their expectations and they would like to participate at a future meeting and continue to contribute to the various taskforces.

What’s next?

At the end of March, DDXWG representatives will present the new and revised business requirements to the relevant Passenger and Airport Data Interchange Standards (PADIS) committees.

The objective is to have these committees:

  • Review and comment on the new business requirements for Order Management, Airline Profile, Interline (ancillary shopping only) and Payment & Ticketing;
  • Review and comment on the changes to the NDC Shopping schemas to ensure interoperability and to facilitate eventual approval by the PADIS Board for publication as a part of IATA standards.

PADIS Board approval of NDC standards is subject to US DOT approval of Resolution 787.


What is PADIS?

The Passenger and Airport Data Interchange Standards (PADIS) Board develops and maintains Electronic Data Interchange and XML message standards for passenger travel and airport-related passenger service activities.

PADIS is governed by Passenger Services Conference Resolution 783.  The PADIS Board, consisting of up to 20 airlines, is supported by two committees (shown below) and a number of expert working groups.

  • Communications Standards Coordination Committee (CSCC) is tasked to promote and oversee interoperability on the level of communications protocols and general implementation of data exchanges and maintains IATA Systems Communications and Reference (SCR) volumes.
  • Data Dictionary and Schema Coordination Committee (DDSCC) is tasked to promote and oversee semantic interoperability across IATA standards and recently started building a common industry data model.

 

February 19
Five Reasons Why NDC is Good for Corporate Travel Buyers

Corporate travel managers are vital to the travel distribution value chain, and their role will continue to grow as self-booking tools become the norm and business traveler satisfaction a rising area of focus.

We’ve have had the opportunity to speak recently with a number of managers in Europe about their requirements. As a result, we have identified five areas where corporate travel buyers will welcome products and solutions based on the NDC standard when it is adopted by their technology partners.

Reduction of out-of-system and out-of-policy bookings

Because the NDC Standard will facilitate the provision of up-to-date airline product and service information, business travelers no longer will have to search for this information and make supplementary bookings on airline websites and third party systems.

Cost savings

The NDC Standard will enable the distribution of ancillaries to their full extent including product features, services, prices, rules and conditions etc. This will give corporate travel manager full visibility over the exact and complete costs of one flight option versus another.

Control

The NDC Standard will allow for the display of product attributes and ancillaries in a structured way, enabling corporate travel managers to precisely determine which products and ancillaries should be made available to travelers.

Time savings

The NDC Standard will facilitate the provision of up-to-date information on airline products and services, so the corporate travel manager and the business travelers will no longer waste valuable time in researching product- and service-related information online.

Improved reporting

The NDC Standard will enable the distribution of the airline’s entire offering, including any ancillaries. As a result the corporate travel manager will have all flight-related expenses into their system, translating into more complete and effective reporting.

 

February 11
More than 450 people online hear about NDC

On 28 January, Airlines International in partnership with NIIT Technologies hosted a webinar on the New Distribution Capability (NDC). If you were not able to attend it, you are welcome to listen to the recorded webinar.

The event, which was moderated by Airlines International Editor Graham Newton, featured presentations from Anil Batra, NIIT Vice President Global Head - Travel, Transportation and Logistics, Dieter Westermann, Senior VP Revenue Management & Pricing Strategies from Qatar Airways, and me. It provided an opportunity to share our thoughts to an audience of more than 450 industry professionals on subjects such as:

  • The potential of the NDC Standard as a business growth enabler (through the latest version of the NDC Demonstrator with real airline data)
  • The technology, software and systems requirements in an NDC-enabling environment
  • The role of the NDC Standard in changing travelers’ shopping experience for a full service, high quality carrier
In parallel to this webinar, the organizers conducted a quick poll with the participants, asking them the following three questions:
  1. By when do you think NDC will be a norm in the industry, rather than a new phenomenon?
  2. Which are the most critical challenges for the implementation of NDC?
  3. Which are the most crucial benefit you think that can be realized from NDC?

The results of the poll showed that:

  • The majority of respondents think the NDC Standard will become the norm in three to four years
  • 63% of respondents see performance and scale to be able to handle agent requests as the most critical challenges for the implementation of NDC
  • More than 80% of the respondents believe that NDC will drive increased value either through innovation, enhancing product offerings or increased customer satisfaction in airline product offering across their agency channels

Interestingly, these results are very much in line with our thinking and it is also reassuring to see that most respondents view NDC as a factor of innovation for the future products that airlines will market to travelers.

Check the charts below to get the full results of the poll.

 

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Blog 4 - Chart 3.PNG
 
February 05
More than half of corporate travel buyers are aware of NDC

The Institute of Travel & Meetings (ITM), the association representing more than 1,000 British and Irish corporate travel buyers released the results of a survey about NDC they recently conducted with Irish and British corporate travel buyers.

 

Presented at the Business Travel Show that took place in London this week, the survey demonstrates that awareness of NDC is reaching across the distribution value chain, as 58% of their members have heard of the program.
Interestingly, the survey also highlights that:
  • 55% of corporate travel buyers in Ireland and the UK do not see NDC as contravening any privacy laws and regulations
  • 70% see travel agents benefiting from the NDC Standard as it will enable them to access the entirety of an airline’s product and service offering
  • 55% estimate that global distribution systems so far have not done enough to properly merchandise airlines’ unique offerings and enable them to efficiently compare these offerings

The survey also shows that greater communication regarding NDC between ITM members and their respective travel management partners is needed.

What does this mean to us? First, we must continue to strengthen our communication efforts so everyone involved in airline retailing has visibility and understanding when it comes to NDC. This blog is an important channel in this effort.

Finally, it confirms that corporate travel buyers are seeing the future benefits of NDC as a way to improve product differentiation and facilitate access to airlines’ entire product offering, resulting in a greater shopping experience for themselves and for business travelers. At that’s good news.

 

February 01
Deconstructing our agreement with Open Allies: What it does and does not mean

​On January 22, 2014, IATA and Open Allies for Airfare Transparency (Open Allies) jointly filed a motion with the US Department of Transportation (DOT) recommending conditions that DOT include in its approval of Resolution 787. Previously, Open Allies, whose members include the three major GDSs as well as the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), strongly criticized Resolution 787 and NDC.

Understandably there has been a fair amount of speculation about what this joint filing means for Res. 787 and the NDC initiative. I’m pleased to have this opportunity to clarify what has occurred.
 
What happens next on Resolution 787 at DOT?
 
DOT has to decide whether to agree to reopen the 787 docket to consider these new proposed conditions in its decision on 787. If DOT reopens the docket, it also may choose to let others comment on the proposed conditions. We are hopeful that the comment period is short and that DOT will proceed to approve 787 in the near term.
 
Will IATA resubmit Resolution 787 to DOT with the new IATA-OA agreed language?
 
The motion does not amend Resolution 787. While IATA and OA recommend that DOT adopt the language in their approval of Resolution 787, that decision is up to DOT.
 
OA’s press statement indicated that they support 787 but not NDC. What is the difference?
 
NDC is an IATA initiative to modernize air travel distribution. Resolution 787 is the technical standard, delivered by the NDC program, which enables a new capability for air travel distribution. We believe the agreement with OA by removing an obstacle to Res. 787’s approval, clears the path for adoption of NDC by the entire airline distribution value chain. As with any voluntary standard, airlines, GDSs, new entrants, agents and corporate buyers all have to make their own decisions on whether or not to pursue the opportunities that NDC offers.
 
The IATA and OA press releases indicate that you intend to jointly explore the possibility of creating a new forum to support a collaborative approach on distribution issues going forward. What will the forum do?
 
IATA Open Allies, GBTA, WTAAA, ETTSA and the Travel Technology Association agreed that there is a need for a forum to exchange information in a collaborative manner on technical standards and regulatory policy. We committed to working together to define this forum’s mission, membership and procedures.

Does IATA plan to amend the way it creates and governs standards?

The structure is well established and we see no reason to change it. However, we will look for opportunities (through this new forum and others efforts) to gain input from industry stakeholders earlier and throughout the standards development process.
 
Have IATA and OA agreed on a position on Consumer Rule III?
 
IATA continues to believe that the market, not regulation, is moving quickly to meet the needs of the air traveler as identified by DOT.
 

 

 

January 30
A Busy Week for NDC

Last week was a busy week for NDC; most of the team was in Miami to participate in a number of industry meetings that are essential to the execution and success of the program:

  • The Passenger Distribution Group (PDG) reviewed the progress of technical development, including feedback from the first pilots
  • We hosted the 2nd PDG Advisory Forum, a newly-created, NDC-specific meeting that brings together senior representatives from global distribution systems, travel management companies, online travel agencies, technology vendors, corporate buyers and airlines
  • The Airline Agents Forum, with representatives from the World Travel Agents Associations Alliance (WTAAA), shared updates on the NDC program and gathered further feedback on their concerns and how to continue to work collaboratively

Collaborative spirit

This eventful week concluded with what probably constitutes the most significant development during these early days of 2014.

  • Following-up on our agreement with Open Allies on conditions to guide the US Department of Transportation in approving Resolution 787; we met with Open Allies, GBTA, WTAAA, ETTSA and the Travel Technology Association to discuss the creation of a new forum to exchange information in a collaborative manner on technical standards and regulatory policy. The main outcome of this meeting was a unanimous agreement among all participants on the value in creating such a forum

This is great news, as it sets the path for a true industry-wide approach to the development and deployment of the NDC standard while providing a forum to engage, to listen and to discuss the program.

 

 

 

January 23
Happy New Year!

As we’ve entered the New Year, I wanted to take a couple of minutes of your time to wish everyone a very healthy, happy and successful 2014. It also is an opportunity to provide an update about the NDC Program and introduce some of our plans for 2014.

After almost two years of intense industry discussion and debate, we have moved into a new and exciting phase of the program. With the rising involvement of more and more industry stakeholders across the entire distribution value chain, the NDC Program is becoming a genuine, travel industry-wide, collaborative effort, with the interests and requirements of all being taken into account. And that’s great.

Before discussing what this implies for the NDC Program, let’s look at what was achieved in 2013.

  • The filing of Resolution 787, the foundation document of NDC, with the US Dept. of Transportation
  • The participation in more than 60 events to explain what NDC is and means to the industry
  • The organization of three Distribution Exchange Working Groups
  • The launch of an advisory forum with representatives of travel management companies online travel agencies, corporations and global distribution systems

The two biggest achievements are:

  • The completion of the shopping component of the NDC Standard that will enable air merchandising and retailing to its full extent through the indirect channel subject to DOT approval
  • The launch of 5 pilot exercises, of which one recently resulted in the first booking processed on the basis of the NDC shopping standard.   

Now, what can we expect for 2014? The objectives for the coming year are very clear:

  • Secure the approval of Res. 787 from DOT. Our recent agreement with Open Allies on conditions that DOT should include in approving Res. 787 should help to expedite this process
  • Deliver the remaining components of the NDC Standard, including booking & servicing, payment & ticketing, reporting, settlement & agency accounting interface, interline and finally airline profile
  • Write and validate the first draft of the NDC implementation guide to support any airline that wishes to start deploying the NDC Standard with its distribution partners
  • Continue to monitor and support the pilots we have ongoing and underway
  • Intensify our engagement with all stakeholders across the distribution value chain to ensure that the NDC Program continues to be a collaborative effort

    Lastly, we need to continue to share the distribution knowledge we’re acquiring more widely and on a recurring basis. Therefore, expect to see some developments in the communication area very shortly, as we’re improving our digital infrastructure to facilitate this knowledge sharing.

    This first blog post of 2014 is a first indication of our wish to do so, and will be followed by others, as well as our revamped NDC e-newsletter which we will release next month.

    In the meantime, let me conclude by wishing you all again a very happy and successful 2014! Working together, we will make 2014 an even bigger year than 2013!

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