IATA’s proposed NDC airline standard won’t meet the performance necessary for the demands of internet surfers, says a company with its own eye on the travel sector.
Jeremy Wertheimer, Google’s travel vice president, believes NDC might be used by travel agents but that on the internet people want answers in "the blinking of an eye".
Wertheimer’s comment came during a panel session at the two-day CAPA event in Ireland last week, which looked at how additional product categories and comparison shopping would add complexity to the air transaction raising the issue of performance.
The panel also included IATA director Eric Leopold who stressed the standard would work if it gets the buy-in from travel agents, IT providers and other interested parties.
"It’s all about change and change requires determination, is it really something we want to do, which this time is there."
He goes on to say that IATA will show the result of NDC with comparison shopping and rich content at its World Passenger Symposium in six months time, adding:
"We have set up a Think Tank this year and we are working on the PNR and what is next, so I tell people to get ready to forget about the PNR, it’s going to be a shopping basket in the future."
But Wertheimer, however, levels criticism at IATA’s working group which, although Google is a participant, he feels is pointless.
"We send people, but they walk in and the decisions have been made and the performance is dead on arrival.
"To make technical decisions you need more than just airline distribution heads."
This criticism of the process being levelled at IATA by a company of Google's stature could irk many of those involved in the initiative, not least because the idea of NDC (a single pipe of content and functionality) is aimed very much at new players in the marketplace such as Google, giving them the connectivity to get involved in airline distribution.
On a more positive note, Wertheimer acknowledges the distribution ecosystem is changing and there will be some innovation with airlines making different choices but, still, argues that a standard (such as NDC) would only work if there are enough business drivers to push it and make it worthwhile.
Keen to highlight the Traveport Merchandising Platform, unveiled on the eve of the conference, head of global supplier strategy Ian Heywood adds his own distribution gems:
"Today it is hard for the model to change because standards are very rigid. What we need to do is enable airlines to distribute their content anyway they want.
"We’re not talking about setting a standard up, we today actively take inventory through an API and put it into an aggregated shopping screen.
"I so not believe that in a year’s time British Airways will be distributing everything through an NDC standard - you might want part of that but it’s not for Travelport to dictate."
Interestingly, Travelport issued a statement reaffirming its position on NDC at the launch of its merchandising platform around questions which it believes remain unanswered.
The statement questions:
- Whether NDC can really represent and protect the interests of all stakeholders
- Whether repeating history in terms of using a previously failed standard (Open AXIS) could serve transparency
- How consumer rights to privacy and transparency will be affected by NDC