LETTER: IATA Director Of Distribution On NDC

The International Air Transport Association director of distribution Yanik Hoyles submitted the following letter in response to American Express Global Business Travel chief commercial officer Andrew Crawley's recent guest column on the New Distribution Capability.

Since its inception, NDC has been at the crux of many important developments and advancements on the journey towards modern, value-creating airline retailing. It is excellent to see that it remains top of mind and a powerful catalyst for reflection and exchanges of perspectives across the value chain.

The recent guest column by American Express Global Business Travel chief commercial officer Andrew Crawley, published Oct. 18, testifies to the wide diversity of opinion around progress toward this goal. I appreciated Mr. Crawley's challenging perspective but feel that it is important to balance some of his statements based on our work with industry participants.

For example, Mr. Crawley states that "there has been more noise than progress in the last decade" with regards to NDC.

As evidenced by The Beat's own reporting, this is unfair. Activity around NDC and the journey towards airline retailing accelerated during the Covid crisis and remains high-up on the list of strategic priorities for many airlines and many technology providers. For example, Finnair announced in September 2021 that it would no longer process EDIFACT-based transactions after the end of 2025, with a call to action for the industry to join the journey.

Currently, one in 10 travel agent sales come from NDC. This is nearly double the figure in January 2021. A growing number of airlines already have over 30 percent of their indirect bookings coming from NDC. The three Western GDSs are all certified and are rapidly growing their production volumes. We expect to see NDC volumes grow very significantly in 2023.

He also claims that "servicing [an NDC order] is, for now, almost impossible." 

This statement, however, is not supported by examples. From our own observation, it appears that some airlines are further down this road than others, largely depending on what the airline has implemented for servicing in their NDC API—automated vs. non-automated. Any player using versions 19.2 and above has access to full servicing capabilities and many airlines that are still on 17.2 have built "extensions" that unlock some of these features. Furthermore, American Airlines just announced they would be offering servicing with all three GDSs.

He views "little thoughts being given to corporate customer needs or the travel management company environment."

While it is correct that there is a lot more to be achieved in the corporate travel arena, it is important to be precise that most airlines today include the evolution of their commercial relationship with both leisure and corporate customers. IATA actively supports this through the work of two advisory groups: the Travel Management Advisory Group (TMAG) and the Global TMC Executive Council (GTEC), which meet regularly and help shape and inform the NDC deployment agenda in the corporate travel space.

Moreover, here are a few concrete examples of TMCs able to offer NDC content to their clients:

  • Spotnana has announced it has developed an advanced integration into American Airlines direct channels that supports personalized travel offers.
  • FCM Travel Solutions and parent company Flight Centre Travel Group are among the first global travel management companies to be recognized for NDC capabilities in the Airline Retailing Maturity index.
  • CTM's integration with the Qantas Distribution Platform (QDP) ensures only relevant content is shown to clients through their Lightning online booking tool.
  • TripActions recently hosted a webinar with the Lufthansa Group highlighting the benefits of NDC for corporate travel.
  • CWT is working with Amadeus on NDC bookings at scale with Singapore Airlines and Air France-KLM.

I welcome the opportunity to continue this discussion and share more information and examples of NDC adoption and value creation within the industry.


Yanik Hoyles

IATA director of distribution