Choice of preferred seats, meals on ticket booking sites soon
New Delhi: With the unbundling of airline services like preferred seats, meals and baggage in India, IATA has started a pilot project to display all such facilities on ticket booking sites to allow passengers to choose what they want.
Besides the services for which Indian carriers levy charges apart from the air ticket price, several international airlines are now selling services like lounge access, fast- track immigration clearance, in-flight entertainment and Wifi access.
Keeping this in mind, global airlines' body International Air Transport Association (IATA) has launched a pilot project with some global carriers to update their booking sites and those of their travel agents to provide passengers the choice to buy any product offered.
IATA has also sought approvals for the project, called New Distribution Capability (NDC), from global regulators like the US Department of Transport.
The NDC booking sites would not only provide base fares and flight timings, but also display all services that an airline would offer with extra charges.
"We have launched the pilot project and hopefully by the end of 2013, air tickets (including these products) will start being issued under the (NDC) programme. We plan to start implementing it globally by 2015-16," IATA's Director (Passenger) Eric Leopold said.
NDC is an IATA-led, industry-supported project to develop an XML-based data transmission standard for communications between airlines and travel agents, offering all services on sale to the customer.
"It would provide more choice and transparency for consumers and spark competition and innovation in the industry," Leopold said.
Customers would benefit from being able to find not just the fares, but all products and services offered by various airlines and compare them, the senior IATA officer said.
For the passengers, NDC would provide information on ticket and services details and also be "fully compliant with privacy laws and regulations".
It would provide personalised experience for users who choose to or not to share information about themselves, their frequent flier or credit card details and travel preferences.
For travel agents, it would be a 'one-stop access' to ancillaries and airline services which would enable them to take advantage of "potential new revenue streams" and provide better service to clients, Leopold said.
The NDC initiative follows IATA's famous initiative some years ago to do away with paper tickets by introducing e-ticketing.
NDC comes at a time when the Indian government has allowed Indian carriers to unbundle services like preferential seating, check-in baggage, with the airlines or travel agents charging only for those services sought by the customer.
Indian carriers have also been allowed to impose a fee for using airline lounges even if the passenger is travelling economy class, apart from excess baggage charges or for carriage of special baggage like sports or musical equipment or valuables which have high liability.