IATA to have NDC ready by end of 2014

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IATA says its New Distribution Capability (NDC) will be ready by the end of 2014 should the product's pilot schemes prove successful.

"NDC isn't a system or a standard yet; it's an initiative," said the association's director of passenger service Eric Leopold at Flightglobal's 2013 Technology and Innovation in Airline Distribution conference in London on 23 April. He added that the first pilots are due to commence shortly, and that IATA will shortly reveal some of the participants in the pilot projects. These include "three global distribution system providers, around half a dozen travel management companies and a dozen airlines".

Release of IATA's XML schema - a document that describes the syntax elements and parameters of the web language - is imminent.

The association is also conducting a public-relations campaign to counter negative reaction to NDC from some areas of the industry. Via Twitter and a blog on its website, IATA is attempting to dispel some of the "myths" it believes surround the project.

Leopold dismisses the idea that NDC will result in higher prices for consumers, arguing that "increased competition usually results in lower prices". He says that travel agents will not lose GDS subsidies if NDC is successful, airlines will not steal customers once they have a direct relationship with them, and NDC will not prevent comparison shopping.

Passengers will be incentivised to provide data in purchasing tickets if they get a better offer by doing so, says Leopold.

Speaking at the same event, Amadeus's director of distribution marketing David Doctor welcomed NDC, saying standardisation will benefit the GDS provider. "It's important it [NDC] gets into the marketplace and it works and achieves the aims for those that want to employ it, the airlines and the agents. We're there to enable that and make it happen but it needs to be done in an efficient way," says Doctor.

However, Aer Lingus's chief technology officer Ravindra Simhambhatla sees NDC as "just talk". There are "too many vested interests at stake", says Simhambhatla. "Nobody wants to collaborate."