Delta Air Lines expects to start piloting its new application programming interfaces with distribution intermediaries by the end of the year. While those APIs will be available to other aggregators, the focus is on global distribution systems.

“For the Delta distribution strategy, which may differ from others, we view GDSs as consumers of the overwhelming amount of our content,” said Jeff Lobl, the carrier’s managing director of distribution strategy.

Vice president of global distribution and digital strategy Rhonda Crawford said it another way, calling GDSs “the linchpin” of Delta’s plans.

During a Thursday interview, Lobl said Delta supported IATA’s New Distribution Capability and that the airline’s APIs “will satisfy any standard.”

However, Delta views NDC as only a partial solution to the industry’s distribution needs.

Lobl explained that while direct channels sufficiently show all airline product attributes, thereby providing the full range of choices for customers, indirect channels lag. A “full retail transformation,” he said, must occur “in parallel” with NDC. In other words, while NDC delivers richer content and more personalized offers, the industry needs “an evolution” in the agency desktops to accommodate it. The future, Lobl said, is about deriving value rather than simply finding the lowest fare.

Asked about coordinating with airline partners, Crawford said “we are finding a coalition of the willing” including joint-venture allies, key agencies and GDSs. Alluding to surcharges levied by certain carriers in Europe, she said “it is clear that those strategies can coexist” with Delta’s.

Lobl reiterated that Delta won’t add surcharges to GDS bookings, won’t create pricing disadvantages and won’t force direct connections on anyone. Delta hasn’t ruled out development of direct connects but Lobl described interest among corporate clients as “slim.”

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