10 November 2021, Virtual
London, UK - November 2021
London, UK - December 2021
Business travel consultants using either Travelport global distribution system – Galileo or Worldspan – can now book pre-allocated seats on British Airways’ flights for customers.
The pre-booking service has until now only been available on BA.com. Travelport says it is the first of the three major GDSs to make the service available.
Historically, BA customers have been able to reserve a seat on an aircraft from 24 hours before departure.
But last year the airline made it possible for travellers to book their seat in advance for a small premium.
However, this was problematic for many frequent flyers whose corporate travel policy dictated that their bookings be made through the company’s travel management company (TMC). Until now they were not able to pre-book the seat on the traveller's behalf.
Jason Clarke, Travelport’s managing director for Europe and Brazil, said the BA initiative was the first of what is likely to be a number of merchandising agreements with airlines.
Ironically, BA’s joint-venture partner in North American – American Airlines (AA) – is locked in an ongoing dispute with the GDSs – Travelport, Sabre and Amadeus – and some online travel agencies (including, most significantly, Orbitz, a US-based OTA in which Travelport has a significant stake) about how airfares are distributed.
AA is pushing its Direct Connect product that encourages corporates and travellers to bypass the GDS when booking a ticket. The airline is aggressively pursuing the strategy because it claims the cost of using the GDS is too high, but it also wants to control revenues generated from ancillary sales, otherwise known as merchandising.
The BA-Travelport announcement suggests the UK-flag carrier is not as desperate as its US partner to distance itself from the GDSs.
John Mornement, BA’s head of selling and distribution, said: “Since signing our global agreement with Travelport, we have been working together to make our pre-paid seat selection service available on the Travelport GDS.”
Jason Clarke added: “This development not only makes the booking process easier for agents but also enables them to offer even better customer service by offering to book a pre-paid seat. It very much forms part of our ongoing merchandising strategy as a business.”
Following UK launch this month, the companies said they would roll out the service in other key regions later in the year.