ARTA At War With Travelport Pay-for-Use Plan

Travelport has imposed significant new financial costs on travel agent subscribers with Travelport's Agility program that takes effect January 1, 2012, the Association of Retail Travel Agents (ARTA) charged.

ARTA expressed "grave concerns" that Apollo, Worldspan, and Galileo GDS subscribers would be adversely impacted by the move, including increased costs. The three GDS's are owned by Travelport. ARTA has also scheduled an online conference to discuss the Travelport move.

In a letter last week to its agency users Travelport has extracted key GDS functionality including queues, profiles, back-office interface records, and bridging (used by after-hours services), among other things, into a suite of pay-to-use services called "Travelport Agility," ARTA charged.

"While some new features have been added to the Agility suite, the major impact for otherwise must-have tools will be at a monthly cost of approximately $35 per workstation (device address) for U.S. subscribers," ARTA said."For example, a medium-size U.S. travel agency with 10 Travelport device addresses, both booking and administrative, would incur a new fee of $4200 per year."

ARTA and ARTA Canada said they have written to Travelport's Derek Sharp, president and managing director, Americas region and airline IT solutions to question the move. ARTA said the two groups have mutual concerns that Travelport Agility includes crucial, previously free-of-charge services for which monthly fees must now be paid.

Both associations have asked Travelport to delay any implementation of Agility until February 1, 2012 so that agencies, their associations, and Travelport can enter into "constructive dialogue" regarding the Agility product suite and its potential impact on subscribers.

"Travelport's move appears to ARTA as the first major fundamental shift in a mandatory agent-pay model, particularly because the Agility suite is largely composed of heretofore no-fee tools, without which few agencies would be able to function," ARTA said. "Furthermore, if agents accept the Agility suite terms and download the required software, users may be unwittingly updating their Travelport platforms to accommodate future pay-to-use features and/or be unable to return to a previous platform environment."

"ARTA feels that this volley by Travelport may be the thin edge of the wedge in a strategy to begin a major transition of GDS costs away from travel suppliers and onto the backs of travel agents," ARTA continued.

ARTA said it was also concerned about the manner and timing of Travelport's announcement to subscribers. Most agencies did not receive official notice until some point during the first week of December 2011, many getting the notice on Monday,  December 6, 2011.

With less than a month extended to evaluate and understand the impact of the Agility suite, and given the fact that the December holiday season may already have key agency decision makers out of the office, ARTA said the "timing of Travelport's announcement seems calculated, if not entirely unfair."

ARTA has advised its Travelport subscribing members to focus immediate attention on the impact of the Agility suite and the added costs on their business and to review their respective contracts.

"ARTA has been extremely vocal about getting travel agents to look at alternative distribution platforms, fearing that financial concessions sought by travel suppliers from GDSs will eventually be shifted by GDS providers to travel agencies to assume the cost differentials," ARTA said.

"Travelport's Agility initiative certainly seems headed in this direction, particularly given Travelport's indications earlier this month that agency segment incentives would be significantly decreasing over the coming years," ARTA said.

To assist travel agents in better understanding Travelport's actions ARTA will provide a one hour online conference for both members and non-members on Tuesday, 20 December 2011 at 2:00PM Eastern.


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