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Posts tagged ‘PSS’

Did I just enter the Twilight Zone?

October 19, 2014



Rod Serling the writer and creator of that iconic TV show used to start each of his episodes of the famous TV show with a little monologue. Here is one:

“This highway leads to the shadowy tip of reality: you’re on a through route to the land of the different, the bizarre, the unexplainable…Go as far as you like on this road. Its limits are only those of mind itself. Ladies and Gentlemen, you’re entering the wondrous dimension of imagination. Next stop….The Twilight Zone.”

In San Diego this week at the IATA World Passenger Symposium. I really felt that I had entered this bizarre place. After directly witnessing (and feeling) the GDS companies ire, obfuscation and direct attacks on NDC for years and the Open Axis Group before that, it seemed as if I had stumbled on the campfire round which everyone was singing Kumbaya. The very companies that were warning of the dire consequences of NDC, paying high (and low powered) consultants, lobbyists and others to kill NDC even before it was born now embrace it with open arms.

Well not quite – picking through the well rehearsed lines and statements was a large bit of fudge. But frankly I don’t care how they got here. THEY ARE HERE. Yes ladies and gentlemen the bizarre and the unexplained has happened. The GDSs now believe that NDC is the best thing since sliced bread.

However, not so fast. We do not appear to be going into the land of the “different” quite yet. And this is my big concern. NDC is becoming shrouded in legacy processes and structures. This is where we could see the effort go off the rails. In my view the initiative is at a quite precarious state. There is a significant danger of the industry not taking advantage of the opportunity that has been afforded to it with the adoption of NDC (the communication standard not the panacea).

NDC is not new. XML is not new. Dynamic pricing is not new. Ancillaries are not new. But that does not mean that NDC cannot  bring change and positive benefit to all levels and potentially ALL stakeholders in the Travel eco-system. The problem has to be now that adoption will require rethinking processes and long held assumptions about Airline Product Distribution.

The marketplace is dividing into three distinct groups.

# The early adopters and market movers. They are clearly out front and trying to distance themselves from the laggards.
# The great middle group who are confused.
# The sheep – those who must wait till its all safe and there is a clear model to follow

The first group is clear. There are airlines and IATA who are doing hard at work and have clear direction to adopt NDC not just in their indirect distribution but also they see there is value in the direct distribution area as well.. Companies like Farelogix, OpenJaw and Datalex who are IT providers are clearly in. And now it would appear that the GDSs are here too.

The second group is confused and the vast majority of players. Most Travel Agencies have no idea what it means because their primary source of knowledge has been the GDSs. Now that the GDSs have moved towards adoption – they need to spread the gospel to the Agency Community.This group is going to be thirsty for knowledge and will expect a high degree of coaching to get to the next level – adoption – of NDC.

The third group is waiting and waiting in finding a model that they can understand and adopt so they will wait until this process is well under way. The concern I have is that by waiting and hoping that it will go away – they will have a significant challenge to incorporating the new processes of NDC into their organization.

For those of us in technology, what we are sensing is that the users both internal airline and travel agency must step up their game. The agent community over the past decade did not go through the same extensive re-purposing of  their roles and corresponding training that the airline staffers did. Can they? Will they? Every Agency now needs to have a technology person on staff or available to bring different content into the displays. The GDSs have clearly stated they cannot provide ALL content ALL ways ALL the time?

Where to from here?

The complete switch over by the GDSs as laid out during IATA’s WPS sessions must be turned into action. The GDSs must bring their customers into the 21st century. This includes extensive new products for the agency community and corresponding training and education.

So to end as Rod Serling would do allow me to end ……

On the road to sustained acquiescence and stupor, the GDSs didn’t quite make it. Something happened that changed their lives and those of all around them. The signposts were ignored about the end of the road. And there they found themselves and a different road. A detour through the Twilight Zone.

Rod Serling

How to Sell An Airline Seat (Technically)

October 11, 2014


Ah – let us consider the humble airline seat.

Many start-ups question me on the complexity of Travel based applications. For many there is a quizzical tone in their voices as they struggle to understand why Travel is so hard, so complex and has so many variations. Let’s look at one of the most fundamental of systems that Travel has to interact with: the airline reservation system or more correctly PSS.

If you must go and look this up in Wikipedia – you will find unfortunately a fair amount of incorrect and misleading information. Sadly there is a lot of horse output spoken about the PSS systems. But sorting through the effluent – here are some salient things to know from a Technical perspective.

  • PSS system are based on one way asynchronous “fire and forget” type messaging. A core concept is that the transaction is assumed to be successful unless you get a rejection message.
  • Most availability functions are now cached at some level.
  • The construction of an available price is comprised of a Fare, Rules and appropriate availability.
  • Each state is out of date as soon as served up.
  • Only GDSs have guaranteed results. For which the airlines pay a hefty fee.
  • All XML type messages are never the full answer. They are ALWAYS a subset.
  • A human can always find an alternative result (and in most cases at a lower price).
  • Do not forget the add-ons for example seats and bags
  • Consider data privacy
  • Consider financial fulfilment
  • Optimization is the best you can ever hope for.

The current standard for message interaction for transactions is the Open Travel Alliance (circa 2011 b) is probably the most representative of what is in the market. One can find various flavours of this floating around the web. However this is being replaced with the NDC standard. Current ratified version is IATA’s NDC 1.0 You can download the Schema here. This is about to have a baby,  (which may be a sister or child – we haven’t quite figured that out yet.)

In looking at how this can be interpreted – there are a number further cautions I will provide.

  • There is no universal source of airline supply. Both technically and commercially there is no ubiquity of service delivery.
  • Make sure you have your own customer and transaction file system. Do not rely on the host to provide that service
  • Be prepared for managing a constantly evolving set of services. Be prepared for constant change.
  • Make sure you have considered the operational aspects. IE what to do if something goes wrong. Who will fix it? Don’t assume the airlines will help you out here.
  • Selling on the web requires some form of commercial license. This means that selling airline tickets (if that is what you want) requires approval and there are many local and international rules that govern this.
  • Whatever time-frame you think of – Add 6 months.

And where to go if it goes pear shaped?

This is where it gets ugly. Sadly there are few very good places to go for advice. I can offer some of this directly. And will answer the first question. But after that finding a reliable partner who truly understands the vast complexity of airline system interaction will require a lot of patience. There is no master class on this.

I wish you the best of luck on your quest. This is not for the feint of heart.