Agency Bodies Condemn AA Surcharges

Move could push other companies to use direct-connect approach.

Travel agency associations in Europe and the US are lining up to condemn apparent moves by American Airlines to force agents to buy direct rather than through GDSs. Both the European Travel Agents and Tour Operators Association and the American Society of Travel Agents say the moves may contravene IATA rules.

Other bodies, from the Institute of Travel & Meetings in the UK to the Catalan Association of Travel Agencies in Spain have also publically criticised the airline’s decision to add surcharges to bookings made by non-US travel agents if they are made through Travelport’s Galileo and Worldspan (see TTG Nordic, Nov 25).

The surcharges will be effective from 13 December and will range from $2 to $22, depending on the country and the GDS. The airline argues that the extra charges are necessary to cover an increase in segment fees that it says Travelport has placed on bookings for the airline made in other countries. Both the European and US agents associations have suggested that the airline’s moves may violate IATA Resolution 850, which states that airlines can use IATA’s Bank Settlement Plans to collect debits related to the “issuance and use of Standard Traffic Documents” while the resolution says nothing about collecting booking-related surcharges in this way.

The Institute of Travel & Meetings commented that it was concerned the dispute could result in “increased costs to business travel programmes and/or increased complexity and an undermining of streamlined managed programmes.” There is also some concern that other companies in Europe could follow a direct-connect approach to bookings.

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