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ATPCO: Data for EDIFACT, NDC, AI, and beyond

“What exactly is ATPCO?” is a question I still hear, 20 years on, from friends, family, and even colleagues inside our industry. Another common question I get from airline industry colleagues is “How is ATPCO different from EDIFACT or NDC?” So, let’s clear up that common uncertainty and provide an understanding of ATPCO’s evolving importance as our industry moves toward a cloud-based, AI-driven future.  

What is ATPCO?  

In short, ATPCO is a data company. We are the airline industry’s primary source for airline merchandising and pricing data; the prices, products, and pictures that make up the flight shopping experience. We were established by the ATA (Air Transport Association) in 1965. Today, we are owned by the world’s largest airlines, and we are the primary collector of relevant data points that make up an airline offer (prices, policies, fees, taxes, ancillaries, baggage, and merchandising content).  

ATPCO is an industry utility that collects and distributes each individual airline's fare and fare-related data—products, prices, and pictures—to lower the cost of distribution across the industry. ATPCO currently works with more than 440 airlines worldwide and supplies more than 99% of the industry’s intermediated fare data to all the major airfare pricing engines, storing over 351 million active fares in our database and managing an average of 18 million price changes each day.  

What is EDIFACT? How is it different from NDC and ATPCO?  

While ATPCO is a data company, we work across several different protocols and standards, making our data available to our partners. The two most common standards for transmitting information in our industry today are EDIFACT and NDC.  

EDIFACT – Simply put, EDIFACT (Electronic Data Interchange For Administration, Commerce, and Transport) is a set of rules that are used to structure how data is shared. Created in 1969 by the United Nations, it is the baseline for the industry and is still used today across many processes. EDIFACT makes it possible for airlines and their partners to share billions of ATPCO’s data points across company and country lines in a standard way. Our data can be shared using the EDIFACT protocol for any participating airline or partner.  

EDIFACT is a data sharing standard that is widely used in the airline industry, but it has limitations because it was designed early in the history of digital technology. For example, its structure limits the information that airlines can share per flight without using a workaround, and implementing larger projects using the standard can be cumbersome.  

NDC – Because of EDIFACT’s limitations, larger global airlines, digital-first aggregators, and technology partners are pushing ahead with new standards that are more digitally friendly. NDC (New Distribution Capability) is designed to enable more dynamic data sharing. NDC was developed by IATA and uses XML (Extensible Markup Language), which is a set of rules for encoding documents in machine-readable form to improve communication between airlines and their customers who use third-party booking tools by enabling real-time interactions.  

NDC helps with now common digital strategies like personalization and allows carriers to react in a more dynamic manner to typical industry situations like a surge in demand for a specific flight (think an unexpected and newly added stop for one of Taylor Swift’s Eras tour concerts). NDC is also more scalable, allowing for today’s reality where flight shopping takes place online across many websites and prices are updated rapidly.

ATPCO collects and supplies the data—prices, products, and pictures—that serve all distribution models, regardless of the underlying infrastructure—whether it be EDIFACT or NDC. These two standards, both governed by IATA for airline processes, provide a specific structure that allows two parties to share that data in a way that is standardized. While NDC is a newer, more flexible standard, EDIFACT is still widely used around the world. ATPCO data will be used through both standards for many years to come.  

The future of airline data  

As a data company, ATPCO will play a vital role in the airline industry as it evolves even further. ATPCO’s data will be readily available as standards, data storage, data management, and analytics technology evolve. Like any company that has endured for decades, ATPCO supports evolution and transformation in our industry and is evolving and innovating rapidly to meet the needs of all pricing and distribution models, as part of our utility mission, for years to come. We exist to lower the cost of airline offer creation, distribution, presentation, and servicing and settlement, as well as to grow revenues for a sustainable industry.  

ATPCO is positioned to support the airline industry no matter which standards they use, what their tech stack looks like today, or what they are building for the future. We work with our partners and with our industry organizations to ensure that pricing and merchandising data is transparent, readily available, and useful. The best way to do that is to be on the cutting edge, embracing change while we continue to support all our industry’s distribution methods. 

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About John Murphy

With experience as an innovator and entrepreneur, John leads the vision for the company’s Core Business Unit.

John joined ATPCO in 2001. His primary role is to lead the modernization and evolution of ATPCO’s systems and data which drive the industry's pricing automation systems. John has a reputation as an industry innovator and understands how new technologies can be harnessed to enable new business capabilities. John has an extensive background in technology, leadership and delivering solutions to customers both internal and external. He also sits on the board of a startup network hardware company specializing in the cloud-based control and monetization of networks.