Airline Association Pushes for Booking System Upgrades

The International Air Transport Association plans to test a new program for booking flights starting next month. But other industry groups aren't so sure it's the best option for consumers.

Sure, you can get a plane ticket on Orbitz. But what about something a bit more customized, like the ability to buy early boarding at the same time you buy your ticket?

That’s what one airline group, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), is pitching for its industry. More details on IATA’s efforts to jump on big data:

If you are an airline, you don’t know what your customer is buying until after the purchase is done.

Why the change? To put it simply, the current system is showing its age. In use for four decades, the booking system that allows sites such as Priceline or Travelocity to sell discounted tickets to consumers offers fewer options for purchases than the airlines’ own sites do and doesn’t allow for the use of loyalty cards or similar products. “If you are an airline, you don’t know what your customer is buying until after the purchase is done,” IATA’s Perry Flint noted to the Los Angeles Times.

The plan: IATA’s plan, called the New Distribution Capability, would push for upgrades to the system that would, according to its fact sheet, “enable airlines to fill the capability gap between their direct and indirect channels” so that the offerings more closely match. IATA promises higher levels of transparency to passengers and stronger levels of access to clients. The association plans to start testing the program in April, with hopes for a widespread launch by 2016.

The potential pitfalls: IATA’s push comes months after a number of online travel groups voiced concerns over hidden fees, which raised regulatory interest in January. The group’s move toward customization is an ongoing trend, but it requires airlines to convince consumers that they can offer more personalized services, rather than simply the best price. The trend toward more consumer data has raised issues for a number of associations and industry groups. The Business Travel Coalition’s Kevin Mitchell, for example, called the move “nothing less than an ill-considered public- and government-relations nightmare.” IATA counters that consumers would not have to give personal information to continue to use the systems.

Would you offer more data about yourself if it meant a cheaper flight or a better travel package? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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