British Airways fares booked through a GDS will carry an £8 surcharge on “each fare component” from next week, meaning a £16 fee on even a simple return fare.
BA and sister carrier Iberia are sticking to their November 1 deadline for introducing the ‘distribution technology charge’ despite failing to have made ready a portal presented as an alternative distribution channel.
When BA announced the charge in May, it insisted it would apply “to any bookings not made using an NDC-based connection or through our websites, airline sales offices and call centres”.
NDC is airline association Iata’s ‘New Distribution Capability’ standard, aimed at enabling airlines to retail through indirect channels in the same way as direct.
Yet in a series of agreements with leading travel management companies and some leisure agencies in recent weeks, BA has waived the fee for businesses agreeing “to work collaboratively with us in delivering NDC content” or willing “to make the technical connections required for NDC”.
Announcing a deal with American Express Global Business Travel, BA global head of sales Stephen Humphreys conceded BA agreed for “bookings to be made through existing platforms without any charge”.
However, Amadeus is the only GDS involved in the agreements. Bookings through Travelport and Sabre will attract the charge unless there are last-minute deals. The fee will appear as part of the total fare, identified as a Q charge.
Agents can avoid the fee on certain flights by booking via BA or Iberia partners, such as a US flight through American Airlines.
BA claims GDSs “carry significantly greater costs” than direct bookings and the fee covers these. However, a detailed study of distribution costs published this week suggests otherwise. It concludes carriers omit “unavoidable costs” of direct distribution when making comparisons to third-party costs, with the underlying aim of “curtailing consumer access to independent booking channels”.