The Business Travel Coalition (BTC) has announced that in response to the Lufthansa Group’s (LHG) recently revealed policy to add a surcharge to tickets booked using a GDS, it has formed AirChannelChoice.travel as a broad coalition of global stakeholders aimed at advocating for travel distribution system choice for travel agencies and their customers.
Currently there are 58 Founding Members from 10 countries with business or operations in 46 countries and territories. Members include consumer groups, corporate and university travel departments, travel agencies, travel management companies (TMCs) and travel industry associations, BTC said.
"The mission of AirChannelChoice.travel is to elevate the public-policy discourse regarding airline industry distribution issues and to promote travel distribution system choice for travel agencies and their customers," the BTC said in a statement announcing the new coalition. "The objectives are to:
1) ensure that there is a powerful, well-articulated and broadly supported public-policy position regarding the issue of distribution channel discrimination;
2) encourage regulators in the EU and U.S. to pursue timely analysis and action regarding potentially anti-competitive and anti-consumer airline policies and practices in the marketplace for travel distribution services; and
3) educate legislatures and regulators on the benefits of intra channel competition in travel distribution and emerging threats and opportunities with respect to consumer choice and price transparency."
AirChannelChoice.travel is surveying its members, gathering industry views, publishing analyses, drafting signatory letters and will be scheduling stakeholder meetings with regulators in the EU and U.S., BTC said. The coalition has also developed a webpage at www.AirChannelChoice.travel to serve as a resource center on this issue.
In a move that drew criticism from travel agents and industry groups, the EUR 16 surcharge was announced June 2 in a move LHG said was part of a broader shift in commercial strategy to earn a greater portion of revenue from flight operations, as opposed to ticket sales. LHG said that costs for using GDS are several times higher than for other booking methods, such as Lufthansa's online portal at www.LH.com, leading to the decision to implement the surcharge. The new charge will not be added to flight tickets purchased using the group's own booking channels, particularly the airlines' websites, as well as the service center and ticket counter at the airports. Travel agencies will also be able to book tickets without the surcharge, using the online portal at www.LHGroup-agent.com.
Additionally, LHG has also said it is in the process of developing a new booking method to enable sales partners to connect to their IT systems directly based on the new IATA data standard NDC (New Distribution Capability). The first NDC pilot project is currently being tested at SWISS and should begin at Lufthansa during the course of this year, Lufthansa said at the time of the initial announcement.
A full list of AirChannelChoice.travel members is available at http://btcnews.co/1KdqxRQ.