At its annual TravelConnect conference in Washington this month, ARC announced that it has enhanced its settlement platform to support IATA's New Distribution Capability (NDC). The upgraded capability will go into testing with two as-yet unnamed airlines next year. Airlines editor Robert Silk caught up with ARC vice president of product Doug Mangold to discuss the change, as well as ARC's NDC strategy.Q: Let's start by talking about NDC. ARC has made a decision to become NDC ready. Why?
A: Our thinking is that the airlines that process their transactions through ARC are changing how they distribute their products. Some are changing the traditional ARC path through the GDSs and some have changed to their version of NDC. ARC needs to be able to support each of those models whether it is the American Airlines model that goes through Farelogix, which for ARC's purpose looks very similar to a GDS transaction, or other models that don't go through the GDS.
Q: What does this enhanced settlement platform offer to airlines and travel agencies?
A: To airlines, we support multiple business models for distribution. So going back to the American example, they will have NDC transactions that run through Farelogix or transactions that go through the GDS, and we support both types. And they don't have to worry about all the travel agency relationship aspects that ARC currently takes care of. They essentially don't have to recreate the process.
For the travel agencies, it's very similar. We offer one place where the travel agency can see all their airline transactions regardless of whether they are NDC or transitional transactions.
Q: And this upgrade also means more options on payment processing, right?
A: One of the items for which we offer flexibility now to the airlines is around credit card billing. Traditionally, ARC does credit card billing through the GDS. With this enhancement we can work with the airline to turn that credit card billing function off if that's what they're requesting based upon how we receive that transaction.
Q: Can you work with a transaction through an NDC marketplace, such as the one the Airline Tariff Publishing Co. and SITA recently unveiled?
A: We would definitely want to tie into. We haven't dug into the technical details around those. The thought is we should be able to tie in fairly efficiently.
Q: Do you expect the new platform will help increase the rate of direct connects between airlines and agencies?
A: It helps facilitate that process and makes however the airline and agency want to work together more secure, efficient and reliable.
Q: Testing only begins next year, so why are you confident enough to say now that you have already enhanced your settlement platform?
A: From our internal testing as we process the different input files that we receive as part of this. We will start testing with airlines as they become ready. We're working with an airline -- I can't say which -- on developing this. We are developing to specifications that they have that will apply to the rest of the industry. We are confident that once that is in place, we'll be ready to go.
Q: How long is testing likely to take? When will this new service be available for use by agencies and airlines?
A: We have part of this service already in production. The American Airlines method through Farelogix we can do currently. It's being able to do new transactions, different files, that's the part that will be available early next year.