IATA's new distribution capability (NDC) got plenty of stage-time at IATA's WPS2015 under the event's tagline of "Innovating better, together."
The first set of usable NDC messages went live at the start of September, three years after the project was first mentioned. Airlines and their technology partners now have the chance to move from pilot projects into live implementations.
Talking of technology partners, an aside at the end of the Wednesday morning session from Yanik Hoyles, director of the NDC programme.
One of the main pillars of NDC was to open airline content to new technology providers and while Google is not new in the space - it bought ITA Software in 2010 - its confirmed involvement in NDC could be the big news story of 2017.
It showed a mocked-up screenshot of its search results which featured rich content from would-be NDC-enabled airlines alongside content from airline dotcoms not using NDC.
The idea was that searchers got a fuller picture, literally, of what the airlines had on offer, potentially making a purchase decision based on value not cost -- moving metas away from their price focus.
Another mocked-up screenshot worth mentioning was part of a presentation by Henry Harteveldt, analyst at Atmosphere Research. "How Consumers View the Future" was commissioned by IATA and is self-explanatory.
Consumers from eight countries were shown an NDC-based mocked-up page from an OTA, with 80% of the total sample agreeing that the mock-up was easier to compare flights and services than what is currently on the market.
In terms of NDC and the airline retailing landscape in general, Harteveldt was keen to point out that:
"passengers' expectations are being framed outside of the airlines and passengers won't cut you any slack..."
Another important point the research confirmed was the disconnect between the importance that airlines place on ancillary products and the frustration consumers felt trying to shop and book them. He said:
"Ancillaries, which are so important to airlines, is where we let travellers down. The travellers see it in terms of being nickel-and-dimed; we need to position it as giving them control."
The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) responded in a statement that the travel agents will need NDC providers to address five points going forward, and it is with-holding endorsement until many of these issues are addressed.
Another piece of fresh-to-market research unveiled at WPS looked into travel agencies' perceptions of NDC, with a majority of agents saying NDC will make them "more competitive and customer-focused" with an improvement in the selling of ancillaries very much driving this.
The agents taking part also said that they will "rely on GDSs most for support in adopting NDC" and that they expect to be paid commission on any ancillaries that they sell.
"NDC - Travel Agencies' Enabler to Success" was more than a year in the making with Atmosphere, T2 Impact, and WTAAA carrying out the research.
One travel agent which is embracing NDC, and is actually working on a project with a delivery date, is Australia's HelloWorld agency. It is working with Qantas to give its agents the chance to book a chauffeur transfer for business and first-class passengers with their flight at the same time, an option which is currently available via qantas.com.au.
Erik Leopold, director of transformation for IATA, said on the opening morning that eight NDC projects would be live by the end of the year, and some of these were referenced throughout the event (although live by the year-end might prove a bit optimistic - the first set of usable NDC messages were only released at the start of September). HelloWorld's link-up with Qantas is slated for early Q1 2016.
As a sign that IATA is confident that NDC is ready, it has introduced a certification process for technology companies. And perhaps an even clearer sign is that is working on new initiatives which are based on NDC.
"One Order" was launched at the WPS and is, put simply, a way to simplify the ticketing and billing processes which are still based on legacy practices. It sounds very much like the association is working towards a "universal PNR" type product, where each airline purchase has a single and unique identifier which will make disruption management easier, improve the accounting processes for airlines and take a load of complexity out of interlining.
One Order will "complement" NDC.
However, one soft benefit to the industry of the NDC experience is that the association believes that all tech initiatives will move quicker as a result of how the NDC evolved.
See a report on how travel agents see NDC.
NB Tnooz lined up with IATA for the THack Hamburg hackathon using NDC-ready APIs. Click here to get an idea of what can be done with NDC. Tnooz paid its own way to WPS2015.