IATA Votes To Adopt New Distribution Standards

The International Air Transport Association on Thursday voted to adopt new distribution standards and a workflow that it claims will enable airlines to "personalize" sales through indirect channels, grow revenues and reduce costs.

The association noted that "the first deliverable" would come later this year as it reveals "XML messaging standards" for the so-called New Distribution Capability. IATA also plans to build by year-end a mock-up of what "what the NDC front-end could look like," according to an IATA timeline shared with The Beat. The global airline association also expects to initiate pilot programs with industry players beginning next year and lasting into 2014.

"We need volunteers among airlines, travel management companies, online travel agencies, GDSs or other technology providers and corporate customers to join NDC pilots in 2013," according to remarks delivered this week by IATA director general Tony Tyler at the association's World Passenger Symposium in Abu Dhabi.

Once pilots conclude, IATA would expect industry participants to implement the NDC no later than 2016, according to a timeline. IATA previously indicated that it would not immediately plan to make the standards mandatory for its airline members.

A handful of industry groups, including the American Society of Travel Agents, the Business Travel Coalition and the European Travel Agents' and Tour Operators' Association have criticized IATA's NDC initiative for several reasons, including what they called a lack of collaboration. In response to such criticism, an IATA spokesman on Thursday noted that IATA has sought input from agency groups, adding that the Universal Federation of Travel Agents Association and the World Travel Agents Associations Alliance attended the World Passenger Symposium, while IATA also invited "technical teams of their key members to participate" in NDC design.

"We will continue to collaborate with individual travel agents and their associations in this important project," according to the IATA spokesman.