21.3 Schema: A Milestone Version for NDC

October 25, 2022

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In October, Datalex hit a major product milestone with the official certification of the latest 21.3 Schema version, as we join a handful of other technology providers certified on this version.

Datalex is laser focused on continuously adding advanced retailing capability for our airline partners across our product portfolio - our NDC 21.3 certification is another important step in the retailing journey we are bringing our customers on.

But did you know that Datalex fully supports many previous versions too? Schema versions are an important aspect of the overall NDC conversation, but despite their importance they are still misunderstood in the market.

History of Schema Versions

There’s a lot of jargon in the travel industry, particularly with recently released standards such as NDC which is still in relative infancy. So, what are the schema versions that IATA proposes?

Simply put, these ensure a simplified NDC messaging standard across the industry. Each version release leverages the feedback IATA received from earlier versions, deployments, and pilots. The NDC Schemas fulfil the business requirements for each messaging service such as Shopping, Order management, or payment and ticketing.

The numbering of the schema versions can also be confusing. The reason for each version is deliberate however - they simply refer to the year and quarter IATA released it. Up until the end of 2020, IATA produced the NDC api version twice a year, with the year first, followed by a ‘dot 1’ or ‘dot 2’ after it for the 1st or 2nd half of the year. However, from 2021 onwards, IATA started to release four versions of the api a year, meaning it is in quarters rather than halves. The latest 21.3 version therefore was released by IATA last year in Q3 and technology providers like Datalex are getting certified on it now.

IATA doesn’t claim to hold hard and fast rules on what airlines use what versions and what technology providers support what versions – it is very much a case-by-case basis which we will explain below.

Misconceptions around 21.3 Schema Versions

There are several misconceptions that we regularly counter around schema versions. Let’s take a look at the most common misunderstandings around these releases:

  1. Airline needs dictate the version - Depending on the needs of an airline, this will largely decide which version is the right version for them. For this reason, Datalex supports 15.2, 18.1, 20.2 and 21.3 versions and their accompanying NDC messages. An airline can support multiple versions in parallel if required.
  2. Newest does not mean the best - All versions are fully capable and usable in market. Older versions are not inactive or out of date, they simply aren’t future-proofed for future message updates or additions. For example, version 18.1 in Datalex is the most tried and tested version as it has been in use for a number of years.
  3. IATA doesn’t stifle NDC innovation - IATA’s message structure is simply a guide to message creation, rather than an imperative. Airlines should not feel bound or restricted by the versions as every version integration is different, and every airline is different with their own unique sets of messages that they want to meet.

21.3 – A milestone version?

Schema 21.3 has been heralded as a milestone version for a number of reasons. For airlines that fit the criteria for its messaging, 21.3 could be the right version for them. Let’s look at the benefits that the latest Schema version, 21.3 offers:

  1. Robust and Consistent - Unlike older versions which simply tested message implementation, 21.3 focuses on robustness and consistency which will simultaneously benefit airlines, sellers and IT providers. This will encourage greater adoption and efficiency across the industry for NDC as a whole.
  2. Backwards Compatibility – The messages in this version are backwards compatible for all future releases.
  3. Reduced Cost – It has been proven that it is 5X more costly for an airline to customise previous releases, rather than implementing 21.3 - according to airline participants.


Register for Datalex and IATA NDC Webinar “Airlines and Travel Agents: How NDC is Reimagining the Relationship.”
Thursday 1st December 2022, 13:00 GMT

This Datalex and IATA webinar will explore the latest trends and opportunities in NDC, how to get the industry to the next level of NDC, ensure greater adoption and ultimately realise greater retailing for all – the airline, the agent and the traveler.




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