On 30 January 2020, UIC and IATA, the International Air Transport Association, signed a Memorandum of Understanding. The objective is to promote innovation while preserving intellectual property between UIC member railways and IATA airline companies.
Mr François Davenne, UIC Director General, said: “This MoU confirms the desire to really promote multimodality. Offering customers a single ticket for rail and air travel gives them the opportunity to choose the best of both worlds by optimising their journey as well as their carbon footprint. In addition, both IATA and UIC are currently developing tomorrow’s digital standards for ticketing applications: to work on established interfaces right from the design phase is an exciting prospect.”
Following this major step for the development of closer ties, on 3 and 4 March, Airline Aeroflot, Railways NS international, MAV-Start, IATA and UIC distribution experts, EY consultants and Travelport and HitRail solutions providers and CIT legal expert met in Geneva at IATA’s Geneva premises. Due to the Coronavirus outbreak many participants could not attend.
Denis Grenier (AccesRail) gave a presentation on how today airlines “interline” or “code share” with trains. Intermodal options will ensure the cheapest, greener and faster travel. Challenges are in the location, terminal and equipment coding and in providing better information to passengers. Both transport modes experts should first share the same concepts and wording. Distributing and controlling air and rail tickets would help define standards which decrease implementation costs.
Then Ionut Bedea presented IATA, his organisation, which represents 300 airlines in 53 countries. IATA, among many activities, produces on the one hand recommendations which are compulsory to follow for air interoperability and on the other hand less constringent guidelines. Representing UIC, Fabrice Setta presented the activities of the Passenger department. Multiple expert groups are developing International Railway Solutions (IRS) with a focus on the standardisation of ticket distribution interoperability flows.
On the Monday afternoon, Mr Bedea presented the state-of-the-art of airline retailing. IATA NDC retailing roles and messages are functionally very close to the new UIC nTM/FSM Retailing protocol. Participants agreed to share the technical diagram flows to study and understand the technical similarities and discrepancies. The next day Stafano Scarsi (EY) presented the UIC 2019 results of the Air+Rail white paper and the scenarios foreseen for 2020. Four workgroups are proposed to cover the most important distribution functional domains which are journey planning and shopping (Location Coding, Timetables, Availability), Booking (Reservation, Seat Assignment), Ticketing (E-ticket and Check-in/Control) and Liability (Entitlement).
All participants agreed to tackle two issues. The first one to improve the existing collaboration between Air and Rail ticket distribution IT systems. The second one to foresee the convergence of the latest webservices standards of both IATA and UIC. After a vivid discussion it was agreed that the reservation on trains is required by airline sellers to reassure customers. The train type scope project should therefore first focus on trains with compulsory or optional seat reservation. Another request was to think global and to add Japan, China, Korea and other Asian trains stations in a common standard to allow distribution by air systems of seat reservation on trains. The meeting was concluded by Marc Guigon, UIC Passenger Department Director, who thanked the participants for their commitment to develop the collaboration of Rail and Air distribution.
The workshops should continue on each of the four topics by conference call every month. The next plenary UIC IATA workshops will take place on 27 and 28 May at UIC headquarters in Paris.