IATA’s ‘New Distribution Capability’ envisions a Dynamic Airline Shopping API

The model would enable airline offers based on who is asking, it says

IATA logoIATA’s “New Distribution Capability,” formally adopted at its World Passenger Symposium in Abu Dhabi, calls for the creation of a Dynamic Airline Shopping engine API based on IATA XML messages.

The NDC envisions a model in which airlines create their own product offers within their own systems, and those offers are “provided directly by and owned by the airline.” IATA said the model will enable more agile pricing and more personalized offerings.

IATA’s goal is to enable carriers to base prices and the nature of the products it offers on the identity of the requestor and what is requested. “This will require authentication and the provision of historical data based on previous transactions,” it said.

The standards also will facilitate distribution of new ancillary products and the implementation of a shopping basket capability to allow consumers to add or remove items from their baskets, which may trigger a re-pricing of the offer provided by the airline.

The model closely resembles the so-called direct-connect strategy pursued by American Airlines.

IATA will decide on its NDC XML messaging schema after evaluating the various standards that are already available. These include the options presented by Open AXIS and Open Travel Alliance, two U.S. organizations promoting XML as the ideal technology connection linking airlines with third parties in the distribution space.

IATA chartThe “key principles” of the NDC resolution are:

•     Business and technical standards shall enable airlines to distribute products across all channels and allow airlines to independently offer dynamic shopping/pricing through any channel.

•     Underlying messaging standards will use modern messaging technology such as XML as “the most suitable and readily available messaging standard to support technologies.”

•     Message standards developed and maintained by IATA’s Passenger and Airport Data Interchange Standards (PADIS) Board shall be used for the transmission of data.

•     The standards shall enable any airline-approved third-party channel to access airline content directly from the carrier.

•     There should be no constraints driven by any requirement for backward compatibility (the ability to interact with older technology). Airlines may wish to establish a roadmap for migration showing justification for backward compatibility only if there is a defined business need.

According to the resolution, the NDC landscape “will provide an interactive exchange based on knowing who is making the request irrespective of the distribution channel being used. This may involve, but not be limited to requests from passengers, agents, interline partners and other distribution channel providers who may provide solutions to their own subscribers.

“Requests shall be sent using industry standard messages from the distribution channel provider to the airline’s dynamic shopping engine. Airlines will determine what product offer to return in the response based on attributes that have been sent in the request.

“Solution providers shall be capable of providing interactive messaging to an airline’s Dynamic Airline Shopping API in accordance with industry-standard messaging.”

The NDC resolution also calls for the establishment of a Passenger Distribution Management Group to manage the development of passenger distribution processes and standards and of modern technology messaging standards. The Joint A4A/IATA Passenger Services Conference will appoint the group, which will have up to 15 members representing airlines, and will ensure that “adequate expertise” is maintained. The group also may invite other interested parties “as required from time to time to reflect the multi-stakeholder nature of the passenger distribution process.”

This article has been updated to reflect the fact that IATA is evaluating a number of existing standards currently available. 1 November 2012

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

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