Industry predicts ‘chaos’ as BA-GDS talks flounder

Agents face a “Doomsday scenario” if British Airways and the global distribution suppliers fail to agree a deal before the end of the month.

BA’s three-year deals with Galileo, Worldspan, Sabre and Amadeus expire next week and it appears an agreement is not likely to be struck.

Existing deals guarantee agents full BA content through the GDSs for a small booking fee, the highest of which is 95p per European sector.

BA is believed to be looking to impose agent charges of between £2 and £4 per sector.

However, if a deal is not agreed retailers fear BA could withdraw full content from the GDSs, offer cheaper prices through its website and even limit seat availability on the GDSs.

Advantage director of business travel Norman Gage described this as a potential “Doomsday scenario”.

“BA could just do what it wanted,” he said. “I fear negotiations could go beyond the wire, the deals won’t be agreed and then it will be chaos.”

The Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association held a series of “last gasp” meeting with the GDSs on Wednesday to try to force through a deal before next week’s deadline.

SPAA air committee convenor Brian Potter is concerned about the increased workload agents face by having to keep checking

Meanwhile, lobby group Business Travel Coalition has written to BA chief executive Willie Walsh expressing “profound concern” at BA’s negotiating stance.

The BTC warned that Walsh travel agents could snub BA due to a potential hike in GDS charges, while claiming the airline’s complex route network means it gets more out of being in the GDSs than other airlines.

The letter said the airline was threatening its “most valuable customer by imposing costs that are already in the tickets”.

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