ATPCO and SITA collaborate to build NDC Exchange to overcome barriers to NDC adoption

ATPCO and SITA are collaborating on NDC Exchange, an industry-owned platform designed to lower the barriers to adoption of IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) for air fares and ancillary sales.

The platform will provide simple, cost-effective API connectivity for airlines and their partners to facilitate the exchange of data.

“Ideally, you don’t want to have to do mutual connections with every partner,” Jerry Foran, chairman of the board at ATPCO, said.

‎Foran, who also is head of product delivery, global revenue, at British Airways, spoke at ATPCO’s Elevate conference in Reston, Va., where the new exchange was announced.

British Airways was one of the airlines that piloted the service, as was Air Canada. Keith Wallis, director of global product distribution for Air Canada, said the carrier is “keenly interested in the community effect, whereby the benefit of a distribution network of like-minded partners grows exponentially with each new participant in NDC Exchange.”

Foran said it will take at least a decade for the transition from traditional to digital distribution in the airline industry to be completed.

In fact, “traditional distribution is growing,” Tom Gregorson, managing director of product strategy and development at ATPCO, said, and that growth will likely triple over the next three years.

The NDC Exchange will ease the way through the parallel universes, enabling an airline to say, “For these markets, I do NDC, and for these, I do traditional distribution.”

Some airlines have been hesitant to commit to NDC because the standard is still a work in progress.

Early adopters of new technologies run the risk of being left behind when version 7 or 8 of a standard becomes the norm.

The NDC Exchange will sit between airlines and suppliers using disparate versions of the schemas and act as a translator.

Its Message Hub normalizes various schema versions in real time, allowing for connections to occur between carriers and aggregators, such as GDSs and on- and off-line travel agencies, regardless of the schema version supported.

By normalizing the various schemas, ATPCO said it can accelerate industry implementation of NDC, enable dynamic pricing and create a single, comprehensive data source for both established and NDC content.

ATPCO implemented the first phase of its Message Hub in in April 2016 to support the translation of baggage messages. The implementation integrated ATPCO’s Baggage Calculator Online with the Message Hub, resulting in all queries being routed through the Message Hub and translated between IATA NDC 15.2 and an earlier version.

ATPCO and SITA are certified IATA NDC Capable IT providers, and the NDC Exchange has been given Level 3 NDC certification.

That is the highest level of certification offered by IATA and covers the full spectrum of order management and shopping.

Despite predictions that NDC would sound the death knell for ATPCO, the company hopped on the NDC bandwagon early on.

Its primary function remains distributing air fares to GDSs, OTAs and other distributors, and some observers predicted that in the age of personalized offers, fare filing would disappear.

But ATPCO saw that the “air fare” would evolve – morphing into branded fares and bundled offers — and it was determined to evolve along with it.

Rolf Purzer, who became chief executive officer of the company in February, has brought some new blood into ATPCO, including Kevin Fliess, a serial entrepreneur who led TravelMuse and Room77; he is now vice president of marketing and sales.

He also hired Gianni Cataldo, Datalex’ general manager for the US, as director of research development and business development.

ATPCO also is forming partnerships with forward-thinking companies such as Routehappy, which aggregates information about airlines’ amenities and attributes.

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