|Photo by Freeimages.com/Doru Lupeneau|
With the New Year kicking off, many in the travel industry are taking stock of where travel is headed for 2016. The Business Travel Coalition (BTC) is joining in with its take on the three issues that will have the most impact on consumers and travel agencies in the coming year.
1. Open Skies
The BTC argues that the U.S. federal government’s decisions regarding our nation’s commitment to negotiated Open Skies agreements will likely be determined in 2016, including what the organization calls a war by the "Big Three" U.S. airlines (Delta, American Airlines and United Airlines) to freeze capacity by Gulf carriers (Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways) in the U.S.
Additionally, the BTC said that allowing Norwegian Air International's application to provide U.S. service to languish for two years deprived consumers and travel agencies of new competitive choices and alternatives. The BTC also said the decision caused other airlines to become less interested in exercising their rights under Open Skies agreements, restricting the overall growth of business travel and the travel industry.
2. Ancillary Fees
The BTC said it hopes that the Department of Transportation (DOT) will restore comparison-shopping in 2016. Consumers cannot efficiently see, compare and buy ancillary services in the same transaction as the base fare - despite availability of required technology. Airlines have refused to provide this information to travel agents and their very best corporate customers. This costs consumers billions of dollars each year as the fees for such services go undisciplined by market forces and often consumers miss the best offers. Travel agents are harmed because they cannot provide complete customer service without much manual labor and associated costs that have to be passed on to the customer, the BTC said.
3. Surcharges for Booking Outside Direct Channels
The BTC also pointed to the Lufthansa Group’s imposition of a 16 Euros surcharge for bookings outside its direct channels as a major issue for 2016, saying that the policy is designed to significantly reduce price transparency for consumers and to harm its competitors in indirect travel distribution channels. Such travel agency channel discrimination, if copied by other major airlines, will effectively drive a wedge between travel agencies and their customers, the BTC said. Surcharges will likely reach $50 dollars and above as airlines seek to fundamentally change consumer behavior.