Air France-KLM and GDS owner Travelport signed a new distribution deal this week ahead of the airlines introducing a surcharge on GDS bookings from April 1.

The agreement with Travelport extends across Air France, KLM and Air France regional subsidiary HOP, but restricts access to fares without the GDS fee to “customers selected” by the airlines.

Air France-KLM will introduce a surcharge of €11 per one-way booking or €22 return from Sunday.

The fee brings the airlines broadly into line with European network rivals Lufthansa, which has levied a €16 fee on GDS bookings since September 2015, and IAG-owned British Airways and Iberia which imposed a €9.50 (£8) fee per fare component from last November.

Travel management companies (TMCs) and travel agents can only avoid the Air France-KLM fee by booking direct with the airlines or through the group’s agent portal or developing an API (application programming interface) in line with airline association Iata’s New Distribution Capability (NDC).

In a joint statement, Travelport and Air France-KLM said: “This agreement enables customers selected by Air France, HOP! and KLM to access a private channel via Travelport through which they will receive content without the additional distribution surcharge levied by Air France-KLM.”

Air France-KLM distribution vice-president Emmanuelle Gailland said: “Air France-KLM and Travelport will work together to bring NDC content of new fares, products, services and rich media.”

Separately, Air France-KLM wrote to agents telling them: “The group is progressively developing its NDC offering and investing in options allowing you to access, reserve and sell the group’s offer.”

BA, Iberia and Lufthansa have similarly restricted access to fares without the GDS surcharge.

However, BA-Iberia signed a string of deals with leading TMCs – including HRG, Carlson Wagonlit Travel and American Express GBT – to waive the GDS fee in return for commitments to pursue NDC technology in the run up to levying the surcharge.

Air France-KLM only announced the first deal of this kind this week – with French travel agency groups Havas and Selectour.

In a statement, Havas and Selectour said: “This agreement preserves the interests of our customers [and] the productivity of our networks and ensures a voluntary evolution at the proper pace of the two networks towards the NDC standard.”

However, they also noted: “The application of this agreement is conditional on the signing of a protocol between GDS Amadeus and Air France.”

Amadeus was the first of the GDSs to sign such an NDC fee-waiver deal with BA in the UK, but the company had no agreement with Air France-KLM ahead of the Easter weekend.

The private-channel access would replicate the kind of arrangements some TMCs and agents have with BA and Iberia.

However, a senior industry figure told Travel Weekly: “The airlines are not yet ready for this technology. There is a lot of work to be done.”