News - The ABCs of NDC: A Glossary for Understanding the Initiative Taking Off in the Airline Industry


If you’ve been reading up on NDC, the IATA-led project that had a slow start but recently has been gaining momentum, you’ll notice many acronyms (including the two we just hurled at you), industry lingo and organizations being used whenever the topic comes up.

To catch up on the jargon as well as understand more about the organizations embracing NDC, here’s a special glossary devoted to the new distribution standard. Of course, with all the companies jumping on the NDC bandwagon of late, this is by no means a comprehensive list.
And if you still haven’t a clue what NDC stands for, we suggest making that your first stop on this list.

Amadeus: a global distribution system that recently launched NDC-X, a program to drive adoption and use cases for NDC; this year, it plans to have web bookings that connect to airlines via NDC and expects to reach Level 3 certification as an aggregator

ancillary services: aka “optional services”; additional amenities airlines offer, such as seat allocation, fast-track boarding, onboard meals, etc., that may be bundled in the product offer or offered as additional à la carte services; one of the goals of NDC is to make it easier for airlines to sell its ancillary products and services via the travel agent channel, not just through its own website

API: application programming interface; code that allows for two software programs to communicate with each other

ATPCO: Airline Tariff Publishing Company; an airline fare and shopping data provider that also recently purchased RouteHappy, an NDC certified standard for airline-rich content; partnered with SITA to build NDC Exchange, an industry-owned platform that will provide simple, cost-effective NDC API connectivity for airlines and their partners in order to drive adoption

direct connect: when a travel agency or travel management company gains direct access to an airline’s content rather than through a third-party intermediary (i.e., GDS); direct connect is one of a few ways to connect to NDC (the others are through an NDC aggregator/service provider or via a GDS)

EDIFACT: Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce and Transport; the coding language upon which GDSs have been built to distribute content; NDC proponents say that the EDIFACT standard constrains its ability to market and sell ancillary services and limits product differentiation

Farelogix: a technology company that has developed NDC APIs for more than 20 airlines, including American, Air Canada and Delta

GDS: global distribution system; a primary reservation tool used by travel agents and services to book airline tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars, etc.; many GDS companies initially did not support NDC, but as more airlines continue to forge ahead with it, the GDSs have begun adopting the new standard themselves

GDS surcharge: a fee by travel service providers imposed on tickets booked via the GDS and not through the NDC connection

IATA: International Air Transport Association; the primary industry trade group and lobbying arm for airlines; it launched NDC in 2012 to improve how airline content is distributed, essentially providing travel agents access to a full breadth of an airline’s ancillaries for a more streamlined purchasing experience

OpenJaw Technologies: a technology company that helps airlines and other companies build NDC connections

NDC: New Distribution Capability; an IATA-led initiative that uses an XML-based data transmission standard and is intended to improve the airlines’ ability to sell and market its products, allowing airlines to make personalized offers and to sell ancillary products (like baggage fees, pre-assigned seats, boarding privileges, etc.) in the travel agency channel rather than only on its own website

NDC capable: vendors that are deemed capable of delivering NDC-certified products or services to airlines and distributors

NDC certification: managed by IATA, it confirms the scope and level of an entity’s ability to receive and send NDC messages; there are three certification levels available to airlines that deploy an NDC API as well as agents and aggregators that use the APIs:

· Level 1: APIs offer basic shopping of ancillary products post-airfare booking (e.g., buying extra legroom as an add-on after purchasing your seat)

· Level 2: APIs offer air shopping and offer management (e.g., bundled airfares that include specific ancillary products, customizable by client and distributed through the GDS)

· Level 3: APIs connect completely to the airline’s systems, allowing real-time fluctuations in price, product and availability with variations depending on who is shopping; these bookings are ticketed and fulfilled by the airline, not the GDS

Sabre: a GDS; initially a vociferous opponent of NDC, it is now “fully committed” to incorporating NDC standards and has achieved Level 3 capability as an IT provider and as a Level 1 aggregator

SITA: a global provider of IT and communications to the air transport industry; partnered with ATPCO to build NDC Exchange, an industry-owned platform that will provide simple, cost-effective NDC API connectivity for airlines and their partners in order to drive adoption

Skyscanner: the first travel meta-search engine with the capacity to display and sell tickets using the NDC platform, which it achieved in 2014

Travelport: the first GDS to reach Level 3 certification in the aggregator category, which it obtained in December 2017

XML: Extensible Markup Language; a messaging standard designed to be easier and more flexible than the existing EDIFACT standard that NDC is designed to replace