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IATA flexes its muscles

IATA has tended to hold little interest for many low-cost and regional carriers, who associate the airline group with the larger legacy carriers. But IATA is certainly steering into themes that affect all airlines, even the low-cost players, and is becoming increasingly vocal.

At its AGM, held in Cape Town, South Africa, at the beginning of June, IATA focused on three key issues: its New Distribution Capability (NDC); core principles for passenger rights; and an agreement on carbon-neutral growth.


The first, NDC, (see Carrier vs coalition) aims to develop an open, XML-based distribution standard for data exchange between carriers and travel agents. Distribution has long been a problem for airlines, who have watched GDSs make better margins selling seats than they have themselves. It has been on IATA’s agenda for some time – but its answer, NDC, means giving back some control to carriers, and has upset many in the ticketing industry – perhaps not surprisingly. Tony Tyler, director general of IATA, spoke out against vested interests at the AGM.


“Frankly, some of our opponents are not telling the truth. Let me clear the air with some facts. NDC will not contravene privacy laws. Nothing in the NDC standard requires passengers to supply personal information to receive an offer. But it does provide the opportunity for customers to identify themselves – if they so choose – to have their loyalty recognised by the airlines. NDC will not bypass travel agents. It will enable them to sell all of what airlines have on offer. And NDC will not eliminate comparison shopping. It will give customers better information on which to make decisions. NDC will support photographic product descriptions so that people can see what they are buying. And it will enable passengers to compare the base fare as well as the cost of all the options that are available.”


Meanwhile, organisations such as the Business Travel Coalition are noisily gunning for Tyler and the NDC, hoping that the initiative won’t be approved by the US Department of Transport.


IATA members also endorsed a set of principles for governments to consider when looking at consumer rights. Passenger rights regulation, in the EU in particular, has been controversial and often misunderstood by both airlines and passengers. IATA has called on governments to standardise passenger rights, to minimise confusion. “What’s needed is a Hippocratic Oath for regulators. The first principle would be to do no harm – intended or unintended. And every regulator should take an oath to solve problems, take full advantage of expert advice, measure costs against benefits and ensure global harmonisation. [These] core principles are a first step,” said Tyler.


Finally, IATA’s focus on carbon-neutral growth has been refreshing from an industry that has relatively high emissions. With environment at the top of the agenda at ICAO’s assembly in September, at which it must agree on a global carbon emissions policy for aviation to appease the EU, IATA has proposed a resolution which will establish procedures for a single market-based measure and integrate it into an overall package of measures to help it achieve carbon-neutral growth by 2020.


IATA might not be the perfect association for low-cost or regional carriers, but it is finally giving airlines a united voice with which to speak to regulators – on issues that affect everyone.



Alexandra Lennane


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