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A leading consortium of business travel agencies has started a “period of non-co-operation” with Lufthansa as the airline is due to start charging €16 for tickets booked through GDS.
Lufthansa Group, which also includes Austrian Swiss and Brussels Airlines, is due to start levying the €16 charge on GDS bookings from tomorrow (September 1) in a move that has caused controversy within the business travel industry.
Advantage Focus Partnership, which includes 66 business travel agencies, has responded by writing to Lufthansa Group to say that it will impose restrictions on training, educational trips, marketing and account manager sales calls.
Ken McLeod, Advantage’s corporate director, said: “We believe that this fee is unacceptable in its current form, and is a drive by Lufthansa to discriminate against TMCs and the wider agency community by imposing a differential pricing structure between the GDS and their own trade website.”
“We should make it clear that the 66 members of the Advantage Focus Partnership will continue to sell Lufthansa flights as per their clients’ wishes, and dialogue will continue with the airline’s senior management, but only through Advantage Central Office with the Focus Partnership negotiating team.”
McLeod added: “I liken it to putting a protest placard outside the airline’s HQ to indicate our real concerns that this move will eventually have a domino effect on the industry.”
GTMC chief executive Paul Wait said the organisation would be keeping a “watching brief” on the impact of Lufthansa’s GDS fee in the next few months.
“Our travel management members clearly recognise the value of a GDS and have shown little interest in Lufthansa’s moves to disrupt the system,” said Wait.
“The value that TMCs deliver is significant when considering that GTMC members book over 80 per cent of UK expenditure on managed business travel and yet, have seemingly been disregarded by Lufthansa.
“The Lufthansa website cannot offer the added value, expertise and knowledge that booking via a GDS always has nor can it put a duty of care at the heart of its decisions as a professional TMC can.”
The Scottish Passenger Agents' Association (SPAA), which met with Lufthansa executives last week to discuss the GDS charge, also condemed the fee as being "excessive and opaque" with Lufthansa's new booking portal "not fit for purpose".
Alan Glen, SPAA's air convener, said that a survey of SPAA members had shown "that the vast majority of them are very unhappy with the Lufthansa stance".
"In fact the survey would indicate that many have already, independently, taken the decision to actively sell away from LH group airlines," added Glen.
"For now, it is evident that Lufthansa's DCC package is simply not fit for purpose. It adds unjustified new cost and a technically unproven extra operational burden to the already heavy workload of the airline group's travel partners."
Glen said the SPAA would continue to "challenge Lufthansa to review and change its approach".
Read our analysis on Lufthansa’s GDS fee and whether other airlines are likely to follow suit.