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NDC, its certifications, and what they mean for you

September 27, 2018
Ian Heywood
Ian Heywood

There are a lot of travel companies out there saying they are New Distribution Capability (NDC) Certified. However, there is a certain amount of confusion over what the different certifications mean, and what they allow the companies to deliver. To really open up the opportunities, you’ll need to work with an NDC Level 3 Certified Aggregator Partner, says Ian Heywood, Global Head of New Distribution, Travelport.

We’re in an era where travel is no longer about a journey and a hotel stay. Today’s traveler wants an experience. This experience starts from the first moment you’re inspired to travel, through booking your ticket and your pre-departure excitement. Our ability to personalize experiences means you’re greeted by name as you step onto the plane, your hotel knows you want a room on a high floor. You capture every moment on your social media feed, inspiring the next traveler to start their experience.

Our industry is responding to these changing customer preferences. Unbundling air fares and ancillaries means customers start with a basic ticket and add on extra legroom, lounge access and additional bags. But only the services they see will truly enhance their experience.

Personalization of the traveler experience is one of the main driving force behind NDC. However, there are also other benefits for travel suppliers and agencies. It becomes possible, for example, to create differentiated offers for members at different “tiers” in loyalty schemes, making them feel more valued and helping to increase loyalty. 

So what exactly is NDC?

At the highest level, NDC is a set of modern Application Program Interfaces (APIs) and schemas for publishing, distributing and combining a wide range of fare types and ancillaries globally. These APIs, which have been created and approved by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), will give the entire industry a technology foundation for participating in NDC and for publishing, sharing, and transacting differentiated travel content.

While NDC APIs have already been defined by IATA, industry adoption is still in its infancy. As a result, there are still a number of common misconceptions around what NDC is, and what is needed to make it work for travel suppliers, agencies and ultimately customers. 

Why NDC IT systems compliance is not enough

The NDC standards themselves are critical for enabling airlines and other travel companies to deliver on the vision of NDC. In particular, they will be the foundation for shifting focus from standard fare, to new customer “offers” that incorporate basic fares and a range of ancillaries that add new value for customers. Additionally, the standards will form the basis for all of the evolved processes needed to support NDC customer offers, including revenue management, customer profiles, merchandizing, and more.

However, the NDC standards themselves are not enough to bring content and components together to create and deliver compelling customer offers. Once NDC content is created, it needs to be aggregated with content from hundreds of other suppliers and distributed to travel agents around the world in a usable, searchable, and bookable format.

Building NDC-compliant IT systems may enable airlines to create and share NDC-compliant content, but that’s as far as it goes. Distributing the offers, and making them available to agencies for booking, requires a far greater degree of systems and process integration across the entire travel value chain. Supplier IT systems can’t help with any of that, which is why you need distribution partners with an entirely different type of NDC accreditation. 

Welcome to the NDC Aggregator Certification

To ensure that differentiated NDC travel content and offers can be distributed and booked globally, IATA has created the Aggregator Certification. This goes beyond supplier systems to support the aggregation and distribution of NDC content to agencies, which are all essential steps for making the whole ecosystem work.

The NDC Aggregator Certification is available in three levels, with IATA announcing the creation of a fourth level of certification that will become available at the end of 2018.

Certification at Level 1 enables agents to search and book ancillary content post booking; Level 2 allows agents to search for offers; and Level 3 supports the order management process which includes taking a customer offer and creating the booking, as well as carrying out the required settlement activities and managing changes.

Travelport: the first to be Certified NDC Level 3 Aggregator Partner

Travelport was the first travel technology company to achieve NDC Aggregator Certification at Level 3 in December 2017. This means our platform is able to aggregate NDC content from multiple supplier systems, distribute it to traditional and online agencies and through corporate booking tools, and support the entire NDC search and booking process from end to end. Through becoming the first level 3 certified aggregator, Travelport gained early insights into the management of NDC content. Using this intelligence during product development means we’re confident in our ability to lead in distribution in the NDC era.

Travelport’s NDC Level 3 accreditation highlights our commitment to enabling NDC content for Travelport connected customers. However, it is only the beginning in terms of our roadmap for continuous improvements to NDC. This will ensure that we can continue to deliver the most efficient system for airlines who want to distribute increasingly differentiated products to Travelport connected agencies.  

Based on our roadmap, agencies and airlines will soon be able to have new conversations with today’s tech-savvy digital customers based on compelling personalized new offers. 

New NDC Certification Levels

IATA is planning to strengthen and evolve its NDC program with the introduction of two additional certification levels in early 2019. Level 4 will include Servicing Messages whilst NDC@Scale will be awarded to airlines, aggregators and sellers capable of processing volumes of NDC sales against a certain criteria.  Travelport will proactively work towards completing this next phase.

Building on 30+ years of distribution success

Over the last three decades, Travelport has built a highly efficient, feature-rich platform for global travel distribution and point of sale. By building NDC-compliant processes on top of our leading platform, we can help suppliers and agents adopt the new technology quickly and seamlessly, with no major disruption to day-to-day business.

As an extra benefit, our platform streamlines the flow of NDC content from suppliers to more than 68,000 travel agencies in more than 180 countries worldwide. With our global coverage and fast, efficient distribution capabilities, we can help both travel suppliers and agencies to maximize the revenue opportunities of NDC, and harness new differentiated content to grow your business.