ATPCO is expanding the sales channels associated with its NDC Exchange as part of the airline pricing, content, and data distributor’s ongoing response to airlines’ struggles during the coronavirus pandemic.

The new sales channels being added to NDC Exchange include Montreal-based travel services provider Farenexus Group, Atlanta travel management company FlightBridge, Foster City, CA-based travel metasearch platform Onriva, and Swiss-headquartered b2b travel marketplace Winding Tree. Those three are currently in production with NDC Exchange. 

Two more sales channels, Dallas’s Flyline and Switzerland’s WellTravel, both travel search platforms, will go live with airlines within the next few weeks. 

“NDC Exchange is about [providing] industry infrastructure to support the efficient expansion of NDC and the interoperability of the different distribution models,” Graham Wareham, director of Business Development and Partnerships at ATPCO, tells Kambr Media. “With Covid comes constraint on expense and airlines will need to lean on industry partners to continue their distribution strategies. NDC Exchange is well-positioned to be leaned on.”

The airlines currently in production with the new sales channels include Air Canada, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic.

NDC Exchange recently reached IATA NDC Level 4 certification, which is the highest level of the accreditation under the IATA program. 

Air Canada also recently achieved “NDC@Scale” certification status by IATA; its NDC Gateway is managed by NDC Exchange. The certification means that Air Canada is compliant with a set of criteria and capabilities set to drive higher volumes of NDC transactions. ATPCO’s common data model makes certification easy for an airline. 

“Partnering with ATPCO allowed us to achieve NDC@Scale certification quickly and simply,” says Keith Wallis, senior director of Distribution and Payments at Air Canada. “We will now begin to leverage the full set of capabilities of ATPCO’s NDC Exchange and develop partnerships with all of the sales channels connected to the ecosystem, including the just announced new sellers.”

The Promise of Seamlessness

NDC Exchange was launched in 2017. It was conceived as an online marketplace where airlines, travel management companies, online travel agencies, corporate buyers, global distribution systems, and other technology platforms could conduct direct transactions for anything that fell under the heading of “airline retailing.”

Created by Dulles, VA-based ATPCO in concert with air transport communications platform SITA, NDC Exchange enables API connectivity between airlines and sellers using the New Distribution Capability (NDC), an XML-based data transmission standard introduced in 2012 by global aviation industry trade group IATA with the goal of unifying and simplifying unwieldy, convoluted airline retailing processes.

In addition to promising “seamless” buying and selling of airline bookings, ancillaries, change bookings, change orders, cancellations, NDC Exchange also promises to speed the tech integrations airlines and their sales partners desperately need to address sudden changes in flight schedules.

“NDC Exchange rounds out a carrier’s capabilities and unloads the burden of multiple connections, development of capabilities and onboarding sales channels,” Wareham adds. “It’s a much more efficient means of advancing NDC.”

NDC Exchange promises that channel implementations for airlines will be completed in a few weeks instead months for most software programs. The program eliminates the need for sales channels to develop and maintain multiple APIs or wait for airlines’ release schedules, Wareham notes. 

That ease of connection enables airlines to get new products and offers to market faster – and speed is particularly of the essence now.

  “The current climate provides the perfect opportunity to push technology forward and implement scalable tools that make connections easier,” Wareham says. “The addition of these sellers to the NDC Exchange community reinforces our focus on making NDC airline content available on more channels so that airlines have a consistent product offering wherever travelers are buying their flights.” 

Proof of Concept With Farenexus

In addition to signing up Farenexus as a sales channel within NDC Exchange, ATPCO is also partnering with the company “to solve some real-life use cases as proofs of concept” initiatives that may ultimately become part of the NDC Exchange service. 

The POCs cover the inclusion of consolidator fares, which are discounted by airlines to fill unsold seats that are typically offered through third-party booking engines. 

“For now, we want to explore the concepts and see what could be expanded upon,” Wareham says. He notes that while the POC partnership is still in its “early days,” ATPCO wants to work with companies like Farenexus and others to explore three things:

Airfare consolidation, which involves solving one of the content gaps of NDC, enabling markups in an NDC environment.

Next Generation Storefront infrastructure: centralizing the calculation of the shelf score and underlying attribute data, simplifying consumption and standardizing algorithms.

Centralized API checking service for airline to seller and airline to airline capabilities, making it easier for airline customers to check-in friction free.

Farenexus will work with ATPCO’s Routehappy rich content to drive the NGS calculation, and provide a centralized check-in service for interline tickets. ATPCO’s NGS ensures that the bookings airlines offer on Global Distribution Systems like Sabre, Amadeus, Travelport, and others will be presented the same way on carriers’ branded websites.

“Innovation is alive and kicking right now in the industry, and Farenexus Group couldn’t imagine partnering with any other organization but ATPCO to create solutions that maximize value for the industry,” said Ravi Kumar Panwar, CEO of Farenexus Group. “We are already exploring these concepts that can help the industry in recovery and beyond, and we’re excited by the possibilities.”