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NDC Guide

What is the ARM index?

Learn about NDC certification and the Airline Retailing Maturity (ARM) index, how to get certified, and the impact on travel sellers today.

Introduction

NDC certification is a classification granted to airlines, sellers, aggregators, or IT providers for the level of NDC capabilities.

As of October 2021, the industry body IATA introduced a new classification for retailing capabilities called the Airline Retailing Maturity (ARM) index.

There are two main reasons for this shift:

  1. Comprehensive capabilities comparison

    • The updated certification is designed to give a more detailed look at retailing capabilities. ARM index expands on four levels of the previous NDC certification and introduces dozens of individual capabilities that organisations can offer.
  2. Streamlined certification programme

    • Before 2021, IATA introduced a number of certification programmes including NDC, One Order, Settlement with Orders, Dynamic Offer Creation, and Future of Interline. The ARM index streamlines these into a single certification.

'We are equipping the industry with a new IATA Airline Retailing Maturity (ARM) index, which will help airlines and their partners to have visibility in airline retailing.'

IATA

The ARM index evaluates organisations’ across three categories: Capabilities verification, Partnerships deployment, and Value capture compass.

The 3 pillars of Airline Retailing Maturity Index including when it’s applicable to airlines, sellers or system providers.
The 3 pillars of Airline Retailing Maturity Index including when it’s applicable to airlines, sellers or system providers.

Capabilities Verification

Airlines, sellers, and system providers are all assessed on this aspect of the ARM index. Capabilities are described in business terms instead of technical terms, for example, the verification process looks to see if a travel seller can process a flight booking and not if a travel seller can send a receive technical flight shopping messages.

The certification process involves validating an organisation's self-submitted capabilities against the IATA Enhanced and Simplified Distribution (EASD) standards. There are six categories that include both core and variant capabilities. The core capabilities are included below.

  1. Shop

    • Shop for flights
    • Shop for ancillaries
    • Seat options
    • Personalise Offers based on passenger type, loyalty programs or commercial agreements
    • Construct bundled offers
    • Pre-defined price points with dynamic price adjustments
    • Airline offers including discounted benefits and/or promotions
    • Rich media included in offers
    • Describing offer conditions / restrictions
  2. Order

    • Order creation without payment
    • Order creation with payment
    • Order creation without tickets/EMDs
    • Ability to indicate masked prices
    • Order changes through the Seller requiring a reshop
    • Order changes through the Seller - passenger details
    • Cancel order item
    • Order information upon request
    • Order changes initiated buy the airlines with notifications
    • Order management for groups
    • Order notification for fulfilment of services with no tickets/EMDs
    • Order status change for service delivery
  3. Pay

    • Pay using settlement platform
    • Pay using customer instrument
    • Pay using payment gateway
    • Pay using vouchers
    • Pay for an existing order
    • Refund amount for any change to an order
    • Pay using mixed payment instruments
    • Airline authenticates payer (3D-secure v1)
    • Seller authenticates payer (3D-secure v2)
    • Payment transaction summary
    • Disclosure of commission
  4. Account

    • Accounting order sales information reporting
    • Accounting order sales reporting with no tickets/EMDs
    • Order status change for revenue recognition
  5. Settle

    • Payment clearance capture and notification
    • Payment summary management
    • Payment clearance cancellation
    • Payment clearance history management
  6. Set-up

    • Sandbox/testing environment
    • Bug tracking
    • Technical support
    • Order support
    • Onboarding
    • Notif messages setup
    • User documentation
    • Order-level permissions management

In total, there are 83 capabilities defined by IATA. To verify capabilities, organisations can show XML messages, company docs, or a screenshot or demo of the capability in use. Organisations must register for verification by including the capabilities and the technical messages behind them, which partners using those capabilities, which capabilities are live, and when the capabilities have been confirmed.

Partnerships Deployment

Airlines and sellers are also assessed on Partnerships Deployment to understand the scalability of their partnerships in terms of volume, network reach, and live capabilities. The assessment process involves validating data and confirming information from retailing partners.

Airlines and sellers are measured against four criteria:

  • Capabilities: Confirmation that the company is live for a set of capabilities with indicated partners
  • Network Reach and Connections: Quantity and type of partners
  • NDC Volume: The volume of NDC sales and how much it scales
  • Satisfaction Score: Satisfaction score from partners for ease of partnership The satisfaction scores will be shared confidentially with the company to help them understand areas to improve.

Value Capture Compass

Airlines are also assessed on the Value Capture Compass to evaluate how they are becoming an airline retailer and using NDC to add value to customers and the industry.

The value capture registration involves a 50-question survey that includes questions about strategy, roadmap, processes and implementation.

This process helps airlines understand their maturity across eight core dimensions.

  1. Bundling, product and content
  2. Pricing and revenue management
  3. Direct channel and customer engagement
  4. Indirect channels and partnerships
  5. Order management and servicing
  6. Payments
  7. Strategy, organisation and talent
  8. Technology and data

By completing the process, airlines will receive a score out of 100 to quantify the maturity of their retail strategy and offerings. The score also makes it easier to compare airlines. IATA will share consideration points to help airlines identify and prioritise the most critical gaps to become better equipped for modern retailing.

How do organisations get certified?

A checklist for the steps involved in getting certified with the ARM index, starting with submitting the application to being listed on the ARM index registry.
A checklist for the steps involved in getting certified with the ARM index, starting with submitting the application to being listed on the ARM index registry.

To get certified, organisations can find the relevant application form on the IATA ARM portal. Organisations need to complete and sign the application and pay the application fee. This fee is currently applicable to service providers and not airlines or sellers and it ranges from $3,300 to $4,950. IATA reviews the application and shares access to a secure, self-service platform to collect extra information.

The next step is for organisations to submit relevant supporting documents in the secure portal for an IATA technical subject matter to verify they meet the ARM index requirements.

Once confirmed, ARM index certification is granted and IATA will add an organisation to the ARM index Registry. At any time, organisations can submit further documentation and follow the regular process for Capabilities Verification, Partnerships Deployment and Value Capture Compass (as applicable) to update certification status.

Organisations need to pay an annual fee ranging from $1,400 to $2,125 to maintain certification.

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How does the ARM index impact travel sellers?

Adding context and visibility for capabilities and how they work

Previous levels of certification didn’t showcase capabilities in a transparent way. Instead, there were broad levels of certification for groups of capabilities. Now with IATA’s Enhanced and Simplified Distribution (EASD) standards in the ARM index, capabilities are broken down into more detail to show the specifics of what’s available from airlines and sellers. It also includes a description of the capability and guides for implementation.

Travel sellers can choose the features most important for their business and explore and evaluate the airlines and providers that meet their needs.

The most common NDC capabilities for modern travel sellers include:

  • Shop for flights
  • Multi-city / open-jaw itineraries
  • Pay using customer instrument
  • Cancel full order
  • Order changes initiated by the airlines with notifications
  • Describing offer conditions / restrictions

Additional features that are less common today but further enhance NDC include:

  • Additional airline supplied ancillaries e.g. meals, wifi, lounge, insurance, priority boarding, etc
  • Additional 3rd party ancillaries e.g. bag pick-up, mobility device, lounge, insurance
  • Personalise offers based on passenger type, loyalty programs or commercial agreements
  • Airline offers including discounted benefits and/or promotions
  • Pay for an existing order
  • Order changes (passenger details) through the seller
  • Order support 24/7 team

Exploring capabilities available from airlines

Travel sellers have different business needs and often will only need access to flight content from a fraction of the global airlines. With the introduction of the ARM index, travel sellers can better understand the capabilities available per airline and choose. This helps travel sellers choose which airlines to work with based on the features and experiences they want to deliver for customers.

The ARM index Registry shows a list of the airlines that are certified, which capabilities are available, and when they were last updated. There are currently 30 airlines with ARM index certification.

Many airlines offer capabilities under the Shop, Order, and Pay categories while a few airlines including British Airways, Cathay Pacific, and Qantas have invested in multiple capabilities across five of the six pillars excluding Account. Singapore Airlines is currently the only airline with capabilities across all six pillars.

Evaluating capabilities from system providers and other sellers

Travel sellers can use the ARM index to explore more than just airlines – they can also find out about system providers and competitor travel sellers.

By evaluating system providers, travel sellers can learn which organisations and tools can help them build and scale their business. Travel sellers can also go through the certification process themselves to demonstrate the strength of their product offering through Capabilities Verification and Partnerships Deployment. This gives sellers credibility in the industry which is particularly helpful for building partnerships with airlines and system providers.

There are currently 45 system providers and four sellers with ARM index certification. Some offer a few capabilities under Shop and Order, while others have invested in capabilities across the majority of the 6 streams.

Duffel is ARM index certified and currently provides support for Shop — including a range of ancillaries, Order, and Pay. The full list of the capabilities offered today is available on theARM index Registry. Learn more about ourfeatures.

What were the levels of NDC certification before ARM?

Before the implementation of the ARM index, there were four levels of certification.

Level 2: Offer Management

Airlines or aggregators that support shopping and booking, but have limited or no support for post-booking processes, for example, changes and cancellations.

Level 3: Offer and Order Management

Airlines or aggregators who support shopping, booking, and a limited range of post-booking processes, for example, changes and cancellations.

Level 4: Full Offer and Order Management

Airlines or aggregators who support shopping, booking, and a full range of post-booking processes, for example, changes and cancellations.

NDC@Scale: Volume Capability + Full Offer and Order Management

A special certification level for airlines that can support large volumes of NDC transactions determined by their technical and organisational setup, use cases, and coverage of key features.

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