IATA seeks DOT approval for ‘New Distribution Capability’

Seeks to refute critics’ claims of privacy invasion, lack of transparency

IATA filed an application with the U.S. Transportation Department for approval of its Resolution 787, the agreement that establishes the framework for its New Distribution Capability.

IATA said that under the “Provisions for Conduct of IATA Traffic Conferences,” it is required to file with the department all resolutions and agreements coming out of its various conferences.

It said that “while a case could be made that IATA already held the authority to proceed with the development of this standard under an already approved resolution, IATA decided in the interest of transparency to file Resolution 787, which would also give interested parties the right to comment.”

IATA logoThe application addresses the objections to NDC that have been raised since the adoption of the resolution.

“Airlines are free to decide whether or not to distribute enhanced content (such as ancillaries) through multiple channels of distribution,” it states.

“If an airline chooses to distribute enhanced content through both direct and indirect channels, it is expected to work within the data formats to be developed pursuant to the Resolution in order to achieve the intended standardization and efficiencies. However, Resolution 787 does not obligate any IATA member to implement the provisions in whole or in part.”

IATA has said the new standard will not be designed to be backward-compatible to the existing Edifact-based networks, but the application notes that “nothing prevents third parties from developing backward compatibility, and the Resolution provides the freedom for airlines to distribute their content through the legacy networks, use the new XML standard, or both.”

Critics of NDC have said the data points that will be supported by the standard – the passenger’s age and marital status, for example – constitute an invasion of privacy.

IATA’s application states that the new standard is intended to accommodate either an anonymous shopping request or customized offers if more information is provided by the consumer, and the specific examples of data points are not intended to be mandatory.

“What is new is that the proposed XML standard will allow much more data to pass between the customer and the airlines, via an intermediary, if both choose to use it,” it said.

The list of passenger attributes —- name/age/marital status, contact details, frequent flyer number or profile number, customer type, travel history, nationality, shopping history, previously purchased services – “are all only fields in the data specification that will be considered for inclusion in the standard.”

Those attributes, and perhaps others, “are elements of data an airline might want, and a shopper might be willing to give, to contribute to a more customized shopping experience, but nothing will require all of the defined data fields be used,” the application says.

Kevin Mitchell of the Business Travel Coalition, one of the most vocal critics of NDC, fired off a response shortly after IATA’s application was posted on Regulations.gov. He restated several previous claims that IATA’s application sought to refute.

“NDC would require consumers to give up substantial personal information,” he said in his e-mailed response. “This information can be used to extract higher prices from less price-sensitive consumers — such as business travelers.”
There is little evidence to support that theory. Many of the data points suggested by Resolution 787 – name, frequent flyer number, shopping history – are already available to airlines in their direct channels, such as their websites.

Managed business travelers, who book through travel management companies, already pay higher fares in general because they book closer to departure and want more flexibility to change their plans.


Read about Sabre’s new defense in US Airways’ antitrust lawsuit in the Jan. 7 issue of TTU.


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