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 said.

ATPCO and SITA aren't the first companies to release an NDC-supported marketplace.

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.

Comments
JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI