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Monday, 17 July, 2017, 12 : 51 PM [IST]

‘NewGen ISS tentatively to be rolled out in India in mid-2018’

Currently, with no Indian carrier being NDC certified, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is hopeful of creating awareness about the standard with a special microsite and NDC Change Readiness Guide. Amitabh Khosla, Country Director for India, IATA in an email interaction with Disha Shah Ghosh elaborates on the progress of NDC, globally, the change it brings about in airline distribution and replacing the BSP with NewGen ISS.
Q. What is the update on the launch of NDC (New Distribution Capability) in India?
A. Since 2015, when the first NDC standard was published, NDC has moved from the pilot phase to the implementation phase. Some 113 airlines around the globe have confirmed plans to adopt the standard, and 36 airlines are already using NDC, primarily in support of flight and ancillary sales. We are now at the fifth iteration of the NDC standard and new versions are published twice a year based on feedback from deployments and pilots. We launched an NDC Certification programme last year to bring visibility and transparency to airlines, travel agents, aggregators and IT suppliers that have implemented NDC. To date, some 88 companies are listed on the registry. With that as background, it is fair to say that the Asia/Pacific region in general and India in particular are in the early stage of their NDC journeys. While there are several IT Providers NDC-capable, there are no Indian carriers NDC certified to-date. We encourage airlines in India to adopt the NDC standard.

Q. Which companies in India have received the IATA certification (across different levels) to offer NDC services?
A. Several IT providers in India (Airlines Technology, IBS Software Services, Quadlabs, Shree Partners, Verteil Technologies) or companies with representation in India have successfully achieved the NDC capable status. This means these vendors have NDC products and services on offer for airlines and distributors.

Q. What kind of feedback or support have you received from GDS players for the NDC standard?
A. All the 3 GDSs are NDC Capable at different levels as IT providers. Sabre and Travelport are also certified as NDC Aggregators. We look forward to the first GDS to become certified on the highest level of the certification (Level 3), possibly as soon as the end of 2017 as announced during the last IATA Business Travel Summit held on May 24 and 31 in Geneva, Switzerland.

Q. Agents in India are still skeptical about adoption of the NDC, how are you looking at sensitizing them about its benefits?
A. We are committed to engaging and collaborating with our travel agent partners, in India and globally. In that vein, we have launched a special microsite with tools and information relevant to business travel agents, self-booking tool providers and corporate travel buyers. Additionally, we have developed the NDC Change Readiness Guide for travel management companies and travel managers. Turning to India, IATA has kept the agents and airlines engaged on the progress of NDC. Presentations have been made at conventions of the travel agency associations, while a special NDC session with the IATA Director General when he visited India earlier, have helped with the engagement on NDC.

Q. In its aim to enhance customer experience, how will NDC impact the role of a travel agent, especially a traditional agent?
A. We believe that NDC is a business enabler for travel agents; it makes it possible for airlines to close the gap between what is available on their own website and what travel agents have access to through their systems. That means that NDC enables easy access to all of an airline’s offerings in the travel agent channel, which is not the case today. This is not a small matter. A survey we conducted jointly with several travel agent associations showed that agents believe that they are at a competitive disadvantage by not being able to easily offer their customers the full range of an airline’s options. By the way, one of the benefits we expect to see from NDC is a reduction in Agent Debit Memos (ADMs), since in an NDC environment, the airline makes the offer and provides it to the agent through an aggregator such as a GDS, or directly.

Q. How will NDC impact consolidators’ vis-à-vis travel agents as far as airline distribution is concerned?
A. The NDC standard is currently processed by a number of airlines and aggregators. Consolidators, like travel agents, can use NDC if they have IT capabilities to build platforms. As soon as GDS’ adopt NDC – processing offers and orders – consolidators will benefit from it, like any other travel agent. Sub–agents, currently using consolidator’s technology, will be able to use NDC standard as well if they have the IT capability.

Q. What is the roll out schedule for NewGen ISS, globally and in India?
A. The rollout of NewGen ISS will begin this year with pilots in selected markets. It will then progressively roll out in waves from 2018 to 2019. India is planned for wave 2, with a tentative timeframe of mid-2018.

Q. What benefits will NewGen ISS augur for travel agents and airlines?
A. NewGen ISS represents a significant re-visualizing of the IATA Billing and Settlement Plan (BSP), which was launched in 1971. Without a doubt, it has served the industry well over the past 46 years. However, the rules for the BSP were established in an era of paper ticket stock, brick-and-mortar travel agencies, limited payment methods and a highly regulated airline industry. While the rules evolved over the years, a comprehensive overhaul is needed to address the diverse and complex needs and risks of airlines and travel agents today as well as the technological revolution that is taking place in payment systems.

For airlines, NewGen ISS means faster settlement, safer funds and a lower cost of distribution.

For travel agents, NewGen ISS offers more products and services with greater flexibility. It includes IATA EasyPay, a secure and efficient pay-as-you-go solution that we expect to be popular in parts of the world where BSP cash is still the main payment method when it comes to buying tickets. One of the benefits of IATA EasyPay is that it provides a way for agents to reduce their financial guarantees with IATA.

NewGen ISS is also making available a new financial guarantee option—Global Default Insurance, which will be offered by a third party, Euler Hermes, an Allianz company.

Q. How are you working with the Passenger Agency Program Global Joint Council and Agency Program Joint Council for the seamless launch of NewGen ISS?
A. We are continuing to work in consultation with forums such as the Passenger Agency

Program Global Joint Council and Agency Program Joint Councils to arrive at solutions that will work for all participants in the air travel value chain. The Presidents of the Indian associations represented on the Agency Program Joint Council (TAAI & TAFI) represent the global Federations on the PAPGJC. They are aware of developments relating to NewGen ISS and the timelines for its implementation. NewGen ISS updates and presentations have also been made to the APJC India.
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