Citing customer feedback and confidentiality of agreements, Travelport confirmed to Travel Agent that it had made limited changes in its controversial Agility program. The program has sparked criticism from travel agents.
"Based on customer feedback, we have made limited changes to the Americas' Agility package which remains in place. We are discussing these confidential, commercial details privately with our customers in the Americas," Travelport said.
ASTA identified three critical issues, including agents belief that they have a contracted right to features that are now bundled into the Agility package. ASTA also questioned the costs to agents and the timing of the announcement.
Travelport’s Agility announcement, released in early December, to be implemented Jan. 1, 2012, has given subscribers little time to adjust their businesses, ASTA noted.
ASTA urged Travelport’s top management to open communication lines directly with ASTA members in a dialogue to resolve these issues. ASTA also urged Travelport to explain the value of both the new products and the enhancements of existing program features.
ARTA expressed "grave concerns" that Travelport imposed significant new financial terms on travel agent subscribers in order to continue use of essential booking and ticketing tools.
ARTA said that Travelport extracted key GDS functions 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".
"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 USD $35 per workstation (device address) for U.S. subscribers - CAD $24 per device address for Canadian agencies. 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 estimated.
"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 said.