IATA Gets NDC Pilots Rolling

The International Air Transport Association last month kicked off its first New Distribution Capability pilot test and now expects to launch one or two additional pilots by the end of the year, head of passenger business development Yanik Hoyles said Tuesday.

The association has not named participants, but Hoyles said each pilot would require "a combination of an airline, agency and IT provider__those are the three key components of a pilot."

Asked if the same technology participant would support all three pilots this year, Hoyles said, "not necessarily," adding that "we have quite a number of people who are interested."

Amadeus has expressed interest. Farelogix president and CEO Jim Davidson on Tuesday indicated his firm is involved with four airline NDC "early-stage" pilots__including two with travel agencies__although it's not clear if any of those is the pilot IATA referenced.

"There's an official registration process for the IATA pilot and they won't tell me whether the one that has been officially registered is one of the ones we're working on," said Davidson.

Other involved tech providers could include global distribution system operators or airline tech firms like Datalex and OpenJaw Technologies.

Hoyles said IATA would present "the findings or the progress" of its first pilot at IATA's World Passenger Symposium in October in Dublin. He said the participants would to "the heavy lifting."

While IATA is secretive about pilot participants, Hoyles disclosed these few details during a media presentation to demonstrate what NDC technology could look like from the user and agent perspectives.

Farelogix's Davidson last month said it is difficult for the industry to understand NDC until pilot tests demonstrate the capabilities. "The pilots will be the key," he noted. "We're working on four pilots already. They're evolving. It's cool to see. We're working on one with an agency and the agency is like, 'I cannot tell anyone__the GDSs will pound me.' But we have airline connections. It is an NDC pilot."

The pilots are part of the earliest steps of IATA's five-year roadmap to bring NDC to the marketplace. The ultimate timeframe "depends on the speed at which IT partners embrace NDC," said Hoyles. "If there's a lot of resistance it will take longer. If people come and embrace this very quickly, it could move a lot faster."