British Airways’ announcement that it will impose a fee on bookings through global distribution systems (GDSs) has drawn criticism from leading players in the travel industry.

Travel management company (TMC) American Express Global Business Travel warned BA’s move would increase costs and result in content fragmentation, while GDS-owner Travelport said it would “penalise customers”.

BA and sister carrier Iberia, members of the IAG airline group, announced the introduction of an £8 (€9.50) booking fee on all sales through GDSs on Friday. The charge will apply from November 1.

Fares on IAG-owned Aer Lingus and Vueling will continue to be available via GDS without the charge.

BA’s move follows the introduction of a €16 fee on GDS bookings by rival Lufthansa in September 2015.

The BA announcement came a day before the carrier’s entire IT system was brought down by a power outage, halting hundreds of flights and stranding hundreds of thousands of passengers over the Bank Holiday weekend.

Many travel agency and TMC staff will have worked all weekend to rebook stranded BA passengers.

In a statement, Travelport said: “Travelport regrets British Airways and Iberia are seeking to penalise consumers who enjoy the benefits of choice, efficiency and value by booking through the travel agency medium.

“They [consumers] will be penalised both through this surcharge and the potential introduction of less efficient working practices.”

A spokesman for American Express Global Business Travel said: “We do not support any initiative that increases costs to our customers as a result of content fragmentation or inefficient technology.”

In the airlines’ announcement to the trade on Friday, BA and Iberia conceded: “We appreciate this represents significant change for your business.”

Travelport said in its statement: “We remain fully engaged with British Airways and Iberia to work on mechanisms to connect with travel agencies and travelers.
“We remain committed to keeping the agency community updated on developments.”