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A look back at 2013: The NDC kerfuffle runs out of steam …

… while Ryanair’s CEO becomes the new Mr. Nice Guy

One of the top stories of the year did a disappearing act as 2013 wound down.

IATA’s New Distribution Capability was certainly the most incendiary topic of the year in airline distribution circles.

NDC is a technical standard for XML messaging that IATA says will make it easier for airlines to provide third-party distributors with their differentiated content. But it was perceived by some players as a vehicle that would upend the current distribution business model and wreak havoc on travel management companies and GDSs.

It inspired companies and trade groups to hire lobbyists, stage press events, rally the travel management troops in opposition and complain to U.S. and E.U. regulatory bodies.

Then, in the fall, the heated rhetoric seemed to run out of steam.

“I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about NDC,” Scott Alvis, chief marketing officer of Amadeus North America, said at the APG World Connect Distribution Conference. “Neither do I,” said Chris Phillips, managing director of distribution strategy at Delta Air Lines, who shared the stage with Alvis during a panel discussion.

The moment captured what the industry was finally asking: What is all the fuss about?

Distribution conferences began to focus on the issues surrounding NDC rather than the accusations, suppositions and outright fantasies. What emerged from the calmer discussions was that travel management companies want access to richer airline content, and airlines want to provide it to them. Standards would help.

But it also was evident that the industry needs to address the mistrust and friction between TMCs and airlines.

Meanwhile, the small handful of NDC pilot projects presented at IATA’s World Passenger Symposium in late October included no GDS or TMC participants and were, in fact, rather vague and uninspiring.

And when Travel Technology Research Ltd., a U.K. company that tracks distribution and passenger services technologies, conducted interviews with about 40 airline executives and chief information officers late last year about their priorities for 2014, NDC was notably absent from the discussions.

“Only one of those interviewed had planned for a pilot project in 2014 budgets,” T2RL said in a “First View” analysis of current trends. “NDC is simply not a priority for most.”



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Read about Sabre’s new defense in US Airways’ antitrust lawsuit in the Jan. 7 issue of TTU.

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