IATA has obviously used previous World Passenger Symposiums as a platform to advance the concept of its NDC (New Distribution Capability). But this …
But this year’s gig in San Diego was different.
At the first WPS session in Doha three years ago, the overall concept was named and announced by IATA.
It was unveiled by director general Tony Tyler, who had signaled his intention to tackle the thorny subject of distribution reformation in the airline market.
Some of the IATA member airlines at that meeting quickly adopted NDC as a vision, however exactly what NDC was and what it meant quickly became clouded in obfuscation and mystery.
It is no secret that there was strong opposition to NDC from the start. Leading that opposition were the GDSs and corporate travel industry groups.
However, some argued that it hid a clear conflict for those players who had distribution as well as PSS products. The PSS side wanted to support customers (airlines) but the distribution side wanted to protect customers (travel agents).
Fast forward to October 2014 and the WPS was pretty much like a formal, NDC formal coming-out party.
The previous battles of airlines and the GDSs seem to have been swept away in a surprising show of solidarity and spirit of cooperation.
Speech after speech by the GDS and PSS vendors demonstrated how NDC was no longer a theory but a reality which has now become accepted by most parts of industry.
In what could only be described as a Volte-Face, all three GDSs are now standing shoulder-to-shoulder expressing their support for NDC.
Don’t relax just yet
This is a start of a very long journey. It will take time for the NDC-based products to hit the marketplace.
Early products such as Farelogix’s NDC Express will soon be joined by products from the GDSs.
Travelport, for example, was demonstrating merchandising solutions on its Smartpoint platform. Amadeus was clearly supportive (it even used the event to unveil its own merchandising system). Only Sabre appeared to lack a firm product solution set (however, I reckon we will see some type of product(s) emerging from Dallas in 2015).
Whilst there was some humour related to this seismic shift in position from the former naysayers, the industry as a whole seems to have coalesced in overall support for the NDC.
The travel agents who were present on platform, from both on and offline hues, appeared to accept it, too.
Now that the hostility and rhetoric has been removed, we can all return to normality, albeit with a lot of work still to be done.
In the coming months we can expect to see all manner of players in the industry announce various roadmaps to the delivery of NDC-based solutions.
With the new specification coming out at the end of October, the developers and product teams can start their work.
Make no mistake, San Diego marked a turning point in the evolution of airline product distribution.
And, for that, we should all offer some hearty applause.
NB: Party poppers image via Shutterstock.