Setting global standards may not sound like the most exciting activity. For aviation, one of the most important roles for standards is to keep flying safe. They are mission critical. The safety performance of airlines on the IOSA registry proves the point. Last year, airlines on the IOSA registry had about one accident for every one million flights (including jet and turboprop operations). The average for airlines not on the registry was 3.78 accidents per million flights. And that pattern is consistent since 2008 when IATA members committed to IOSA as a condition of IATA membership.
Standards also evolve. Keeping IOSA at the forefront of industry best practice is a constant challenge. IOSA is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. Thanks to a commitment to continuous improvement, the program today is much more robust than it was at its inception.
With that in mind, there is no more fitting way to mark IOSA’s first decade of success than with a step-change evolution in how the program works. Our membership has committed to an Enhanced-IOSA program. This introduces the concept of continuous compliance to IOSA standards. Monitored internal audits throughout the two-year validity of an IOSA registration will turn the program from a snapshot of an airline’s safety management program into a continuous video.
Global standards play a role in aviation well beyond safety. Some even unlock innovation. We saw that with standards for e-ticketing and 2D barcodes for boarding passes. And that is the case for the standards that are being developed to modernize the shopping experience for air travel. Despite the complexity that has been built into the distribution of air travel there is not a lot of flexibility.
An airline website can display lots of options for travelers—many more than can be offered through the travel agent system. Pretty much everybody involved in distribution recognizes that this has to change. The Global Distribution Systems (GDSs) are developing retailing solutions. But the pace of change is far behind the Internet retailing revolutions that we have seen in other industries.
One of the reasons for this is the lack of a global standard for XML messaging. Some bespoke solutions are being developed. An airline may find it worthwhile to feed a limited number of such systems with their product information. But it would quickly see diminishing returns if it tried to retail through a myriad of proprietary systems.
The solution is a global standard—New Distribution Capability (NDC). NDC is focused on developing a common XML standard—for airlines to supply rich product information to the market. If airlines can fully describe the products that they are selling to their customers—with pictures and complete pricing details—there is much more incentive to provide value added options.
Today’s GDSs will most certainly be the best placed to take advantage of such a development. But having a global standard will also lower the barriers to entry for others to enter the market with new ideas or innovations. That’s good news for our three billion passengers. Broader product choices, complete product information and more shopping options is certainly a winning combination for the customer.
Global standards are making flying safer and providing a launching pad for retail innovation. That’s exciting!
By Tony Tyler, IATA's Director General and CEO