First Published on 28th August, 2018
NDC schemas supporting a consistent interpretation of the standard, the availability of an implementation guide to support use cases and no need for one to rework on their processes after implementing the 17.2 version have strengthened the case for going ahead with NDC, writes Ai’s Ritesh Gupta
Amadeus has been working on plans to industrialize IATA’s New Distribution Capability, an XML-based data transmission standard.
Focusing on the collaborative route to take the standard forward, the group has signed a spate of agreements in the recent past, including ones with American Express GBT, American Airlines, Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT), and BCD Travel in a span of a week. The involved entities are focusing on new use cases for authentic standardization via a test and learn approach.
This route adopted by Amadeus is significant as requisite modern retailing capabilities can only be built on top of the NDC protocol provided it responds to travel providers and sellers’ needs. Amadeus acknowledges that progress made with the version 17.2 in terms of bringing into line the Offer and Order structures in the NDC schemas has set the tone for a dependable understanding of the standard.
“The industry today (when it comes to NDC) is far ahead where things were a year or two ago,” said Gianni Pisanello, VP, NDC-X program, Amadeus.
Laying a solid foundation for various stakeholders
Pisanello underlined progress on three counts.
With the standardization of the schema and the flow as well, is it a case of curbing innovation?
Disagreeing with the same, Pisanello said, “In fact, it is the reverse. By having a standard in place, the industry can create a lot of flexibility and creativity on top of it.” He referred to the role of 4G on top on which mobile apps such as Whatsapp or WeChat were crafted or the Internet which eventually witnessed the entry of Facebook. “Similarly, once NDC is established, the standard will enable the travel industry to innovate much faster how travel is sold and bought.”
Among the set of objectives, a key aspect of Amadeus’ NDC-X program is to ensure that NDC content is easy to access and compare. Initially, the focus is on a simple flow of “shop, order and pay” using the NDC standard. “Post this, the plan is to include the servicing capabilities that travel agencies need, such as the ability to change tickets, or to add ancillaries,” shared Pisanello.
“Once the schema and the standard are in place, airlines have to implement all the right features for the travel agency to do their job i. e. to fulfill the work and provide services to their travellers. Airlines not only need look at content and product offerings that they offer on their respective digital assets, but also at other areas that agencies need for their association with travellers. So in addition to shopping and booking functionalities, but they also need to incorporate vital features such as re-shopping capability,” explained Pisanello.
He added that another critical aspect of NDC would be the performance of airlines’ systems that can handle search requests coming in from various indirect channels. “A sub-second respond (from an airline) would be critical and if this doesn’t happen in the NDC framework then airlines would lose out (be not being present when an intermediary produces results when a user searches).” Airlines are looking for systems that are interoperable, scalable and flexible, unlike proprietary applications used in the past. “We can deal with it (performance required from systems). We are operating on open systems. Our systems have developed real-time capability to process every shopping request, for instance, managing availability of seats in a particular fare class at a given point of time,” stated Pisanello.
Optimizing the offering for travel agencies
As for the workflow of the agencies, Pisanello mentioned that Amadeus from the early stage of its involvement in NDC conveyed it to IATA and airlines that if NDC is going to be tough for agencies to adapt then it can’t be industrialized. “(In such case) it won’t prove useful for high-volume transactions environment,” he said. “Now we see a number of airlines being committed to the same – American Airlines, Qantas, British Airways etc.”
“An aggregator continues to bring together suppliers’ content via a platform to agencies. We can deliver reach and sale whosoever the provider is. With NDC, the industry is upgrading capabilities – airlines working on personalization, relevant offers; aggregators can build offerings on top of NDC content and combine it in new ways; and agencies are essentially retailers. Agents would have varied content, along with their layer of personalization they would have strong opportunity in servicing their customers better,” mentioned Pisanello.
He added that it is important to understand the productivity of the agencies. “What sort of content is needed? There is a difference between the B2C and B2B environment. Whom are we servicing? It isn’t about putting the same content, even different agencies need different content. NDC has been created for agencies. Airlines can’t manage 100% of distribution via their .com or apps. The agency channel is a vital player in this mix, and who would facilitate and serve them the best is an area of expertise as well,” stated Pisanello, who added that NDC shouldn’t be clubbed with the commercial strategy of airlines, be it for the introduction of a surcharge or offering NDC commission to agencies. “These would have happened anyway. They are more of a function of certain carriers’ size and operations in a certain market,” pointed out Pisanello.
Pisanello expects existing infrastructure using EDIFACT and the one based on NDC to continue for years.
Amadeus is working on its web services product. It will aggregate NDC and non-NDC content, and this product is scheduled to be in production for piloting by online travel agencies. It will then be industrialized and enhanced with servicing capabilities. Worldwide deployment is being targeted in the first quarter of next year.