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IATA Goes off Course at DOT Consumer Panel


Steve Shur on May 01, 2019

IATA Goes off Course at DOT Consumer Panel

 

The US Department of Transportation recently held a meeting of the Aviation Consumer Protection Advisory Committee (ACPAC), a group formed by DOT to discuss consumer issues in air travel. Among such issues was a session entitled “Transparency of Airline Ancillary Fees.” The DOT sought input from agents, airlines, consumer advocates, corporate travel representatives and IATA on the state of transparency of ancillary information. 

 

Instead of focusing on the importance to consumers of access to transparent ancillary fee information and how NDC (an IATA-branded program for what is really an XML technology standard) could help to achieve such access, IATA chose instead to malign the GDSs.  IATA did recognize that GDSs have been “strong supporters” of IATA’s NDC initiative and have “done a great job from a technology standpoint.”  IATA noted that the GDSs’ “technology people have been fantastic over the last several years working with us to make NDC possible.”  In fact, Sabre, Amadeus and Travelport have all fully embraced NDC and are NDC-certified (by IATA) at the highest levels.

 

Nonetheless, in pointing out that currently only a very small percentage of transactions are NDC-enabled (which IATA admitted it is not happy about), IATA unfortunately veered off course and -- inexplicably, unfairly, and inconsistently with its praise for GDS support of NDC -- sought to lay blame on the GDSs.  It is well known the GDSs have been using XML technology long before IATA launched its NDC initiative. GDSs are responsive to their airline customers and can and are already building the technology their customers request.  As IATA correctly pointed out, NDC requires significant investment by airlines and “requires airlines to upgrade their own technology and processes.”  Rather than suggesting that the GDSs are the reason for the limited adoption of NDC, perhaps IATA should recognize that its own members are in a period of transition. Maybe the IATA members are already looking beyond NDC, as Travel Tech members are, at new standards for mobile such as REST and JSON, for example. Regardless, the GDSs have all invested time and money and have embraced NDC as one option for their airline customers to distribute their entire suite of services, including ancillaries. 

 

Over the past several years, travel distribution stakeholders have endeavored to promote a positive dialogue with IATA leadership on distribution standards. While the distribution stakeholders and IATA don’t always agree, there is clearly a desire on the part of distribution stakeholders to establish an open and transparent dialogue and a spirit of problem solving and collaboration. IATA’s comments at the ACPAC were not fact-based and were counterproductive to those objectives and to the ongoing evolution of the travel distribution landscape.