(Corrects Amadeus comment in last paragraph and its stance on
the new standard in paragraphs 12, 13)
CAPE TOWN, June 4 The airline industry is set to
allow consumers to see more details of what they are booking
using a new online reservation platform, a project that poses a
threat to many travel technology firms working with older
Almost two thirds of global tickets sales are made via
travel agents, online travel agencies and travel management
companies rather than the airlines themselves.
While many airline websites can show customers content such
as no-frills or bundled offers, travel agents cannot access the
same information and services in most cases because of outdated
software that uses a computer language developed 40 years ago.
In many cases, passengers have no way of comparing different
packages, meal prices or the size of seats.
An enhanced web platform could be widely available within
two years if the world's airlines prevail, with a pilot
demonstration with real transactions planned for October 2013 in
Dublin at the World Passenger Summit.
The New Distribution Capability (NDC) standard aims to give
consumers the same online experience regardless of how or where
they do their travel shopping.
Members of IATA, the world airline industry organisation,
met in Cape Town this week, viewed a demonstration of the new
standard and passed a resolution approving it.
"Airlines offer a rich customer-centric shopping experience
on their own websites and we want travel agents to have similar
capabilities," said Eric Leopold, a senior IATA official.
But not everyone was happy.
Some travel information technology companies, such as Sabre
Holdings and Travelport, make their money from contracts linking
airlines and agents via global distribution systems heavily
reliant on the old technology.
They may stand to lose business if the NDC standard, which
bypasses those older systems, eventually prevails.
Another, Amadeus IT Group, said IATA's resolution
on NDC had addressed almost all of its concerns about the new
standard, ranging from its compatibility with older systems to
the privacy and ownership of data.
The Madrid-based company said it was waiting to see whether
IATA followed through on the details of its resolution.
"To be completely clear, we have said that we cannot fully
support resolution 787, which is effectively NDC in its current
form," said Ben Hunt, a spokesman for Amadeus.
He said Amadeus had submitted concerns about NDC to U.S.
transport authorities and was cautiously optimistic that IATA's
resolution heralded a more collaborative approach.
(Reporting by Samantha Lee, Wendell Roelf and Tim Hepher;
Editing by Tom Pfeiffer and Erica Billingham)