Agents in crossfire as American Airlines denounces Travelport

The row between American Airlines and Travelport has intensified with the US carrier accusing the technology giant of being “deceptive and misleading” in displaying a charge to customers, imposed yesterday, as a fee paid to the airline.

American Airlines issued a furious statement after Travelport, owner of global distribution systems Galileo and Worldspan, added fees of £4.52 or £6.24 per flight to bookings by agents via the GDSs. Rival systems Sabre and Amadeus are unaffected.

The warring companies were awaiting a court ruling in Illinois following a hearing last week after Travelport sued American Airlines for breach of contract when it withdrew fares from US online retailer Orbitz.

The escalating battle caught UK travel agents in the cross fire after Travelport withdrew discounts on its charges to American Airlines to appear on the GDSs and the carrier responded by imposing fees to compensate from December 20, telling agents: “American will ask you to absorb the cost.”

The airline insisted it would proceed with plans to levy the charges via IATA automated debit memos from February despite Travelport announcing yesterday that the fees would be displayed and charged to customers at the point of booking.

American Airlines denounced Travelport’s move as “a means to bias its display against American” saying this would “falsely display the charge as a tax owned by the customer, when the charge is imposed only against travel agencies that used the Travelport GDSs”.

The carrier went on: “Neither the anticompetitive rates imposed by Travelport upon American, nor American’s Booking Source Premium, which is intended to offset these rate increases, is a passenger fee, and it is misleading to portray either as such.

They are not part of the fare for air transportation, nor are they related to any service rendered by American to the passenger.

“Travelport is artificially inflating the cost of sale and preventing agencies that use its system from offering fares at levels that are competitive. American will proceed with its previously announced policy of applying the Booking Source Premium using ADMs.”

In a statement yesterday, Travelport laid the blame for the spat on the airline, arguing: “This issue has been precipitated [by] American Airline’s actions [in] withdrawing ticketing authority from Orbitz. This is clearly not an isolated incident concerning one US-based travel agency and AA. Rather it is an attempt by AA to fundamentally change an existing distribution model.

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