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Despite the pandemic, IATA still saw movement on its New Distribution Capability (NDC) standard in 2020 and hopes for continued momentum going forward.
NDC is a set of XML standards that will enable airlines to offer more diversified and richer content to agencies, enabling the sale of ancillaries and personalized offerings.
Yanik Hoyles, IATA’s director of distribution programs, gave an NDC update in a media briefing Friday. Going into 2020, IATA had seen “pretty good momentum” on the NDC front, marked by the number of airlines, agencies and suppliers who held NDC certification, 163 in total. Of those, 11 airlines were certified at the highest level, @Scale, recognizing that those carriers can drive large volumes of NDC transactions.
IATA was also well on its goal of having its Leaderboard airlines — 21 carriers who participated in the initiative — using NDC solutions for at least 20% of indirect sales. That number, Hoyles said, hovered at just below 11% in December 2019.
But when the pandemic hit, IATA pivoted to focus on helping members cut costs, protect their cash and stimulate the market. For instance, Hoyles said, under the cost-savings banner, IATA held 25 webinars connecting 170 startups with 80 airlines. Those startups focused on technical solutions, like processing refunds, to help airlines solve problems.
To help stimulate the market, IATA created a demand rebound tracking tool that more than 100 airlines used in the past eight months.
IATA also held a number of meetings for the different groups representing stakeholders in NDC.
“It didn’t stop, this journey to NDC,” Hoyles said. In fact, it accelerated, and IATA did reach its 20% goal in 2020.
Today, 185 companies hold NDC certification, up 22 from the beginning of 2020. That, Hoyles said, illustrates that there is still work being done, despite the pandemic. Over the same period, two more airlines are certified @Scale.
Hoyles declined to set a new goal for percentage of NDC sales in 2021 considering the current climate, but he did outline what the future holds for IATA. It involves a more customer-centric world, in which the combination of things like NDC and IATA’s One Order initiative will focus on offers and orders instead of the legacy e-tickets, electronic miscellaneous documents and passenger name records that dominate today.
IATA, Hoyles said, has three main “work packages” for 2021.
The first is to drive value creation in airline retailing. IATA will work in the coming months to review its certifications and increase value creation on that front.
The second is to help restart and accelerate airline retailing. IATA is considering creating a new Leaderboard initiative. It will also continue to work with the travel agency community — travel management companies in particular — to remove roadblocks to the adoption of NDC for business travel.
Third, IATA plans to focus on agility in product design, with the goal of dynamic offer creation.