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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- By when do you think NDC will be a norm in the industry, rather than a new phenomenon?
- Which are the most critical challenges for the implementation of NDC?
- 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
The journey started in October 2011. IATA published the StB white paper including five goals to prepare for tomorrow’s passenger. Customers want choice and transparency when they shop for air travel. The first goal in the StB white paper is to enable better access to airline content through distribution channels.
The initial NDC roadmap included the delivery of a foundation standard in year one and pilots in year two. Indeed in October 2012 Resolution 787 was adopted by IATA’s Passenger Services Conference (pending US Dept. of Transportation approval) and in 2013 several NDC pilots were launched.
During this journey we’ve achieved and learned a lot, and there have been some misconceptions. After two years it is time to reflect on where we are:
1. The focus of NDC is on enabling the travel industry to define and implement a technology standard. NDC is not about defining a business model. IATA’s role is to develop industry standards and to facilitate market adoption, just as it has done previously in initiatives like e-ticket and EMD. NDC is not a “system,” IATA is not building a new “system;” IT providers and GDSs build “systems” based on IATA standards.
2. The need for innovation in the end-to-end travel supply chain is acknowledged by all, with a focus on the needs of the most important stakeholder, the end customer. Enabling innovation is the key challenge for our industry; driving innovation requires the collaboration and support of all stakeholders in the value chain.
3. NDC is a set of technology standards in distribution, which need also to consider the end-to-end process, from shopping to booking, ticketing, servicing and payment. Only an end-to-end solution will enable the industry to meet the needs of customers.
4. Airlines have told us that they want to become more customer-centric and offer rich differentiated products in every available channel. Addressing the airlines’ need for product differentiation across all channels needs to involve all the partners in the distribution value chain – GDS, Passenger Service System and other IT system providers, retail travel agents, online travel agents, travel management companies, and other intermediaries, and of course buyers and travelers.
5. Capturing the inputs of all those partners requires a process inclusive of all relevant stakeholders, focusing on the end-to-end solution.
Learning those lessons and looking ahead we are confident that we are now in a better position to facilitate a successful modernization of air travel distribution through NDC. We look forward to hearing from our partners and to working with them on this critical initiative.
The recent World Passenger Symposium provided an excellent opportunity to update stakeholders on the status of the NDC pilot initiative that began in February 2013. We currently have five NDC pilots underway involving the following participants:
American Airlines, JR Technologies (JRT), US based consolidator: This pilot is covering NDC Shopping, Booking and Ticketing messages and will offer AA Preferred Seat and Main Cabin Extra not available in a non-NDC channel and product bundles.
Air New Zealand, JR Technologies (JRT), US based consolidator. This pilot will test the ability to easily describe the qualitative aspect of specific seat products offered by NZ. The pilot will enable agencies to display NZ SkyCouch Seats and Deluxe products accurately. It will also provide NZ product descriptions, price and flight schedules.
Travelsky, Hainan Airlines, CTBA (travel agency): Domestic travel is a high priority for Hainan Airlines. In phase 1, this pilot will verify that the NDC schema can support domestic travel in China. The second phase will focus on specific ancillary services of domestic travel and international travel.
Travelsky, China Southern, Ctrip (travel agency): This pilot is taking a simple-to-complex approach. The 2013 focus is on basic shopping using the NDC shopping schema. Phase 2 (2014) will focus on exposing rich content in shopping and include booking and ticketing.
Swiss International Air Lines, Datalex, PROS, HP: This pilot will demonstrate the performance of the NDC shopping Schemas with a high traffic volume. The focus is on 1) shopping and pricing requests and 2) flexible date shopping / sub-second responses. It will also use an agency GUI to demonstrate: A combined solution in a Travel Agency Context; a range of Airline Pricing Capabilities; comparison shopping across a range of products; a-la-carte cross- sell of ancillary products; personalised offers for each of the above.
At least four additional pilots are in the pipeline. These include a pilot with Air Canada and nuTravel Enterprise and another co-led by ATPCO and OAG. The AC / nuTravel pilot scope includes the online corporate self-booking tool of nuTravel Enterprise and Air Canada Corporate Rewards Program. The ATPCO/OAG pilot will focus on the concept of the airline profile (a means to help an airline manage the volume of NDC “hits” or requests), the requirements of which are in fact a work in progress.
The NDC pilot phase will provide important insights to the development of the NDC standard. However, it is important to note that no schemas may be implemented until Resolution 787 is approved by the US Department of Transportation, expected by yearend.
With the World Passenger Symposium (WPS) set to get underway in Dublin tomorrow, it may be helpful to recall the principles underlying the vision for NDC that IATA member airlines endorsed in a unanimously approved resolution at the Annual General Meeting in Cape Town in June.
The first statement of the Resolution nicely captures the broader vision for NDC as it “strongly endorses continuing efforts of the broad industry to develop the enhanced standards needed to support the delivery of rich airline content across all channels”
Let’s review this in more detail:
• Broad industry: the NDC effort encompasses all stakeholders, customers, suppliers and intermediaries
• Enhanced standards: IATA is widely recognized for its role in the setting of standards that facilitate the safety, efficiency and convenience of air transport and enable the smooth functioning of global financial systems supporting the industry. The current distribution standards (like AIRIMP) were developed 40 years ago by IATA. With programs such as NDC, IATA is updating these standards to leverage modern communication technologies
• Rich content: customers want to access more than price, they want transparency on fares, ancillaries and all products attributes; they want choice, the ability to compare airline offers and to choose for themselves whether they remain anonymous or receive personalized offers
• All channels: whether customers shop direct or through intermediaries, whether they visit a retail agent or go online or use a smart phone, customers want to be able to access all airline content
With these principles as guidance, IATA has prepared an inclusive program on distribution for delegates attending WPS this week (the distribution stream is one of the two major streams at WPS, the second focuses on the passenger experience). Attendees choosing the distribution stream will have the ability to hear from a broad cross-section of stakeholders on a variety of distribution and NDC-specific topics:
• Feedback from the NDC pilots with participation from American Airlines, Air New Zealand, Swiss International Air Lines, JR Technologies and Thoughtworks
• Airline merchandizing: the retail movement, with Sabre
• View from airline IT providers, with Datalex, Farelogix, Sabre, Navitaire and Amadeus
• View from an online travel agent with Expedia
• Mysteries of price distribution, with Swiss, JetBlue, PROS and Amadeus
• An airline case study, with Open Skies by British Airways
• Views from a TMC, with GTMC
• Open floor for travel agents, with CWT, ITAA, GTMC and getgoing.com
• NDC going forward, with Lufthansa, British Airways, Delta Air Lines and Advantage Travel Centres
• Airline product differentiation and NDC, with Maersk (travel buyer), Australian Federation of Travel Agents, Lufthansa, Travelport
These participants, panelists and speakers will make WPS a genuine industry-wide forum where all stakeholders have the opportunity to meet and debate distribution, among other topics. IATA is honored to host this forum and will be delighted to join any other industry forum to further discuss NDC adoption in the market.
I look forward to seeing you tomorrow in Dublin.