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British Airways has sought to placate business travel buyers’ fears over contract changes following the start of its joint venture with Iberia and American Airlines.
In a letter to members of the Institute of Travel and Meetings, Amanda Amos, BA’s head of corporate sales, has asked buyers to waive key aspects of confidentiality clauses in existing sales and marketing agreements with the airline. In order that BA can include its joint venture partners, existing contracts have to be amended, as the current agreement stipulates that BA is prohibited from discussing any aspect of a contract, including whether it exists or not, with anyone else.
In the letter, Amos said BA was “not trying to force any of our corporate contract customers to agree to anything they do not see as a significant benefit to their respective organization” and said there would be no repercussions for those that did not sign. However, some travel buyers may prefer to maintain separate deals with BA, American Airlines and Iberia, even though this restricts them to flights operated by individual carriers on the joint venture routes.
Norman Gage, Advantage business travel director, said only a few of its members were affected but added: “The argument against waiving confidentiality is that it negates the current agreement. It allows BA to talk to the other airlines about the whole of the contract.”
But Paul Tilstone, ITM chief executive, said it was very much a choice for individual companies and too early for some to decide.
He said: “I don’t think suspicion or praise are the right words. It makes perfect sense for BA to ask for this. We will be expressing the reservations of some buyer members, but not all. The general concern is about what will happen to the data or how it will be used.
“Others have questioned whether this will result in tangible benefits because they have not been effectively communicated by BA. It’s Catch 22 at the moment until the three airlines can sit down and look at the data, it’s probably quite difficult for them to devise any cost reductions and benefits.”
The ITM urged members with concerns to contact it in the next fortnight so that these can be presented jointly to BA.