The American Society of Travel Agents and Business Travel Coalition have rejected emphatically the claim by IATA that the new “standard” it has developed for retail distribution was the “culmination of 12 months of intense coordination across the value chain with participation from airlines, global distribution systems, the travel agency community including online travel agencies and IT providers and their respective trade organizations.”
IATA made the assertion in a press release at the end of its World Passenger Symposium in Abu Dhabi.
“The claim of participation by ‘the travel agency community’ and its ‘trade organisations’ is an illusion, plain and simple,” said Nina Meyer, president and chief executive officer of ASTA.
“We and fellow travel agency organisations around the world have been denied transparent participation in the development process for what IATA calls the New Distribution Capability.
“IATA cannot legitimately claim this is an ‘industry effort’ on the grounds that one or two individual agencies were present.
“And the claim that it will enhance competition is called into question in light of NDC’s apparent preclusion of full price transparency and comparison.”
In a statement last week, IATA claimed the NDC would enable airlines to offer more options to customers and to reach them seamlessly across all distribution channels.
Currently around 60 per cent of tickets by value are sold indirectly through travel agencies using global distribution systems.
With the NDC, airlines will be able to recognise these customers and therefore provide tailored offerings, as they already can for those customers who go directly to airline websites, IATA said.
“A Foundation Standard for the NDC is the first step to enabling the development of open XML standards that will be available for all interested providers to work on and develop their own offerings,” Aleks Popovich, IATA senior vice president, industry distribution and financial services, said at the time.
“At the World Passenger Symposium, participants have agreed that the industry standard is paving the way for the future, and the time is right to move to a new model.”
However, this was disputed by BTC chairman Kevin Mitchell.
He said: “Let’s call a spade a spade. IATA recently assured us that NDC was in its very, very early stages and that technical standards to be adopted in the upcoming working session in Montreal were just the beginning of a long development process.
“However, the setting of direction usually needs to precede the development of technical standards.
“As such, the likely reason organisations representing travel agencies and corporate travel departments were excluded from the process, including Montreal meeting, is because decisions about direction and business models have already been taken; there is no role left, no opportunity for input from these organisations.”