Travel Industry Groups Propose Collaborative Process for Development of Distribution Standards, Invite IATA to Join
October 28th, 2013

Dublin / Washington D.C. – October 28, 2013 – Several travel industry organizations from the U.S. and Europe today announced a collaborative process to help develop open and business-model neutral data standards that will enable enhanced distribution of airline products through any channel.

The goal of the initiative is help the industry reach consensus on technical standards that will enable greater communication efficiency, consumer choice, and transparency of information across all distribution channels.  It will also facilitate airlines’ efforts to make custom offers to travelers while fully preserving robust comparison-shopping across multiple carriers and protecting consumers’ data privacy rights.

U.S. organizations endorsing the initiative included the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), the Business Travel Coalition (BTC), the Consumer Travel Alliance (CTA), and the Travel Technology Association (Travel Tech).  On the European side, the European Technology & Travel Services Association (ETTSA) and the European Federation of Travel Agents’ Associations (ECTAA) issued a separate statement supporting the initiative.

The groups invited the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Airlines for America (A4A) and other relevant travel industry stakeholders to join this cooperative multilateral initiative.

The groups believe the initiative could effectively end the acrimony caused by IATA’s unilaterally developed New Distribution Capability (NDC), which has received harsh criticism from many parts of the travel industry and from government officials.  At the same time, it will enable airlines to sell their products in smarter and more cost-effective ways across all distribution channels.

“We need to come together as an industry, with IATA and the carriers, to develop a sensible, business-model neutral data standard which enables airlines to effectively distribute rich content and enhances the comparison-shopping experience for consumers and travel buyers,” said Paul Ruden, ASTA’s Senior Vice President for Legal and Industry Affairs.

“Another major travel organization issued its own call for a direct dialogue with IATA on Friday, an effort that we strongly commend and hope will become part of this broad industry-wide collaboration,” continued Ruden.

“Today’s flight shopping experience leaves consumers confused and angry because airlines do not make available the full all-in price including extra fees and charges in a transparent way,” said Charlie Leocha, Director of the Consumer Travel Alliance. “We think there’s an opportunity to set technology standards that make the experience more transparent, user-friendly, customized, and competitive, all while protecting consumers’ privacy.”

“We are extending the olive branch to IATA to work with us in a cooperative manner to encourage technological innovation for the industry and increased customization for travelers,” continued Kevin Mitchell, Chairman of BTC. “We hope they will accept our invitation to reset the dialogue and move forward together.”

“We’ve spent a year arguing over standards that clearly are not supported by the airlines’ vital partners or travellers themselves,” added Steve Shur, President of Travel Tech. “We’re offering to put down our swords and come together on a new and better approach that includes all of the key stakeholders in the air travel industry.”

To ensure the standard-setting process remains focused on the needs of the traveling public, the groups also endorsed a set of consumer-focused Principles for the Future of Air Travel Distribution. Those Principles, appended in full below, include transparency, choice, competition, innovation, and privacy.

The groups will provide more information on their initiative during a telephone press conference in Dublin, Ireland, on Monday 28 October 2013 (11am ET, 4pm Ireland time, 5pm CET), just before the start of IATA’s World Passenger Symposium. A multi-stakeholder forum will then be organised for early 2014.

Moving forward, the group intends to broaden the discussion to include other stakeholders such as hoteliers, car rental companies, rail operators, and cruise lines who will benefit from broader industry cooperation in setting technology standards.

American Society of Travel Agents

ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents) members represent 80% of all travel sold in the United States and its membership is growing internationally. ASTA’s history of travel industry advocacy traces back to its founding more than 80 years ago, with the mission to facilitate the business of selling travel through effective representation, shared knowledge and the enhancement of professionalism. For more information, visit ASTA.org.

Business Travel Coalition

Founded in 1994, the mission of Business Travel Coalition is to interpret industry and government policies and practices and provide a platform so that the managed travel community can influence issues of strategic importance to their organizations.

Consumer Travel Alliance

The Consumer Travel Alliance (CTA) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to provide consumers an articulate and reasoned voice in decisions that affect travel consumers across the travel spectrum. CTA’s staff gathers facts, analyzes issues, and disseminates that information to the public, the travel industry, regulators and policy makers.

The Travel Technology Association

The Travel Technology Association, or Travel Tech, is the association for online travel companies (OTCs) and global distribution systems (GDSs), and is dedicated to connecting consumers and travel providers, eliminating barriers to travel and protecting consumers.  Travel Tech’s members include: Amadeus, Expedia, Orbitz Worldwide, Priceline, Sabre, Travelocity, Travelport and Vegas.com.

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