The Airline Tariff Publishing Co. (ATPCO) and air transport technology
company SITA have launched a marketplace for IATA's New Distribution Capability-supported
airline product sales.
The companies said that NDC Exchange will enable airlines
and travel sellers to more quickly and less expensively adopt NDC while
supporting sales of complicated itineraries, such as interlining, which have
thus far proven difficult with NDC-supported APIs.
Should it draw enough airlines, the marketplace could serve
as a convenient shopping point for travel agencies searching for ancillary
product offerings such as bag fees and bundled fares that NDC capability
supports and that are largely unavailable at present in GDS systems.
"This is really about enabling airlines to connect to
the marketplace in an easy fashion," said Graham Wareham, ATPCO's director
of product portfolio.
Wareham said that seven airlines are already on NDC
Exchange, though no leisure or corporate travel agencies have signed up yet.
The service has been successfully piloted by several major airlines, including
Air Canada and British Airways, ATPCO and SITA said.
Wareham explained that one of the complexities for airlines,
GDSs and agencies that are developing NDC-supported direct connects is that
companies have developed their APIs using a variety of programming structures,
or schemas. For example, IATA, which developed the first NDC standard in late
2015, has put out four new schemas since then. NDC Exchange will translate
messages sent between APIs built with pre-NDC platforms as well as with NDC
schemas released by IATA in 2015 and this year.
Companies using the marketplace are therefore spared the
effort of developing their own NDC-supported API.
"The work left
with the seller and the airline is the commercial arrangement," Wareham
ATPCO and SITA aren't the first companies to release an
Among their competitors are Ireland-based OpenJaw and German
startup Flyiin, both of which offer several NDC products that provide shoppers
with price comparisons and offers from multiple airlines.
Wareham said that ATPCO believes it is especially well
positioned to develop such an exchange since it already works with 430 airlines
collecting and distributing fare data. Several airlines own ATPCO.
NDC Exchange could pose a threat to GDS companies Amadeus,
Sabre and Travelport, which are in various stages of developing their own NDC
capability, said airline industry technology analyst Henry Harteveldt. Success,
he cautioned, will depend on whether NDC Exchange offers quality functionality
and good economics to airlines and travel sellers.
"What I see here is the first step toward a technology
hub that could pose a credible challenge to the GDSs," Harteveldt said.
Wareham acknowledged that NDC Exchange could be a competitor
to GDSs, but downplayed the notion.
Instead, he said that the marketplace is useful for the GDSs
themselves. Joining NDC Exchange would allow them to more quickly develop
NDC-supported connections with airlines, thereby ramping up their abilities to
sell a more diverse offering of ancillary products. The GDSs could do this,
Wareham said, even as they fortify their internal NDC infrastructure.
"We're not here to infringe on anybody's business, we're
here to facilitate connections to the NDC standard," Wareham said.