The IATA has filed an application with the US Department of Transportation (DOT) to approve a resolution on a new airline distribution initiative it is championing.
The filing will allow interested parties to comment on the new initiative, the New Distribution Capability (NDC), which has sparked controversy in the industry in the recent year.
First endorsed by the IATA board in 2011, the NDC aims to enable airlines selling tickets through travel agents via global distribution systems to customise their products for customers.
The IATA had adopted the resolution on the NDC foundation standard at its Passenger Services Conference in October 2012, but is required to file all resolutions adopted at its conferences with the DOT.
The IATA has said that the NDC will allow travel agents and websites using GDSs to sell ancillary products like extra legroom seats, which it says most GDSs are not able to do today.
"Today's air travel consumers who visit a travel agency or an online travel site don't have easy access to all of the options to add value to their travel plans. This is because the indirect sales channel remains largely dependent on pre-Internet messaging standards. This provides agents with the basic information-fare and travel class. But agents have been unable to easily see important product characteristics such as the availability of wi-fi or seat features. And it is difficult to distinguish pricing alternatives like fares with fewer restrictions on travel changes," says Tony Tyler, IATA's director general and chief executive.
GDSs and travel agents, however, have been extremely vocal in opposing the NDC. Both groups say their feedback was not taken into account by the IATA. GDSs like Travelport and Sabre have said they already have agreements in place with some airlines to sell their ancillary products.
The IATA says the NDC will encourage market entry in the distribution system, pointing out that airlines are already paying costly fees to GDSs that dominate the marketplace, a statement that is disputed by the GDSs.
Interested parties who want to comment on the IATA's DOT application may file comments within 21 days of 11 March, the date of the application filing.