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What Is IATA's NDC?

Is IATA's Resolution 787 a plot by which airlines can bypass the travel agent chain all together? investigates the NDC
04-29-2013  By: Zachary-Cy Vanasse
Tony Tyler, CEO, IATA
Tony Tyler, CEO, IATA
IATA's proposed Resolution 787, also known as the New Distribution Capability (NDC), has been a controversial and confusing issue since the resolution was first announced during the IATA Passenger Services Conference last fall.

Travel agency associations such as the World Travel Agents Associations Alliance (WTAAA), the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), the Business Travel Coalition (BTC) and the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA) have all come out against the NDC, largely because of a lack of transparency on IATA's part throughout its NDC creation process.

Now, IATA and the travel associations -  with the associations being led namely by ASTA and BTC - are looking to educate and inform the industry on what the NDC is designed to accomplish and why they are either for or against it.

However, the clarity either side of the Resolution 787 fight are looking to bring to the forefront is only further clouding the waters as the two sides can't seem to even agree on what the NDC actually is.

For its part, IATA is saying that the NDC is a project designed to bring the aviation industry's computer language code into the modern era so that airlines can more effectively sell and distribute tickets.

On the other hand, the associations are arguing that the NDC will be an industry-sweeping shift that will threaten the way travel agents do their jobs, the way customers shop for tickets and a passenger's right to privacy. They have also argued that the NDC might be a plot to bypass the travel agent all together.

The facts

Both sides have used terminology suggesting the other is not being completely forthcoming and honest in their respective representations of what the NDC is. Words such as "myth," "communication gaps," "misinformation" and "inconsistencies" have been bandied about by the two sides of the argument.

However, despite the arguments,  there are some indisputable facts concerning IATA Resolution 787.

The NDC is a resolution of a technical standard. Those opposed to it will argue that it is more than just a technical standard, but at its core it is a change of technical industry standards.

The pre-Internet messaging standards, that is to say the computer codes airlines currently use to distribute product through the GDS channel, are a less than ideal way to support recently adopted airline selling practices such as unbundling and ancillary fees.

NDC would modernize those communication channels to bring them up to date with current airline selling practices.

In technical terms, Resolution 787 is designed to support the development of an open XML-based data exchange standard to complement the existing TELETYPE and EDIFACR data exchange standards, which are already managed by IATA for the airline industry.

In simpler terms, the airlines want to adopt a new type of computer coding industry standard that will allow them to distribute product to agents differently.  

Traditionally, the GDS factors in price and destinations when used to search for flights, and nothing else. NDC will allow for more customized options when shopping for airfares.

The arguments

The associations against IATA's NDC have argued that the resolution might be a plot to bypass the travel agent chain all together. The associations have been particularly concerned by a lack of transparency on IATA's part throughout the NDC process.

This has led some to wonder if IATA has purposely veiled the NDC process because it has something it wants to hide.

ASTA and BTC have argued that, more so than simply being an evolution in an industry technical standard, Resolution 787 may threaten anonymous shopping and customer privacy, the ability for agents to see all purchase options, honest comparison shopping and non-discriminatory pricing.

IATA is arguing that it is simply creating an alternative distribution system to modernize the way agents can shop for tickets for their clients. It has said it has no intentions to dictate where or how customers shop for airline tickets, but wants to ensure that they have access to all of their options, no matter the channel used to do so.  

IATA has also said that, while customer information can be factored into the search process in order to tailor the best results for that customer, providing that information will be voluntary and in no way necessary in order to purchase a ticket.

Stay tuned to this week as we delve into the NDC in an attempt to explain all the details involved and present the extensive arguments made for and against it, further examine how it could directly affect travel agents and provide information on what can be done to try and put a stop to it, should agents feel they would like to do so.

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