Guest Columnist: Val Foylan

Guest Columnist: Val Foylan

ON BEHALF of the Scottish Passenger Agents Association members, I must express my extreme disappointment at last week's European Commission ruling on British Airways and find it totally incomprehensible how BA can be found guilty of abusing its dominant position by using 'anti-competitive incentive schemes'.

Override commissions have been running for years and are normal business practice.

What is wrong with incentivising agents and paying more money for extra sales?

This is commonplace within our industry.

These are standard remuneration terms that have historically existed between suppliers and agents.

Virtually every airline and tour operator does it and for tour operators, incentives are a way of life.

The SPAA finds it derisory to suggest that override commission makes members more likely to sell British Airways than other airlines (Travel Weekly July 19).

The UK travel industry is a professional industry and agents will only market companies which support them provided the product is right for their customers.

It is also most unhelpful of the media to suggest agents are being paid too much to push certain products when the reality is that the majority of our members are struggling to survive on the base rate of 7%.

BA has been singled out when many other carriers operate similar schemes.

This ruling may have repercussions on other airlines with a dominance in their home market but as one foreign-based airline has recently been quoted - If nobody complains, the EC isn't interested.

BA has been made an example of as a result of an original complaint by Virgin Atlantic which alleges that BA is unfairly persuading agents to sell its products and yet they, themselves, are currently trying to incentivise agents by offering higher levels of commission.

It's hypocrisy at its best.

Unfortunately, the fact is that Virgin and other carriers will be allowed to continue to offer their own override schemes as they are not dominant carriers - this appears to be a very fine legal argument.

In the opinion of the SPAA, BA's business practices satisfy all the competition rules in Europe.

We will assist British Airways in any way we can in identifying other opportunities for our members to receive additional revenue.

Val Foylan is vice-president of the Scottish Passenger Agents' Association

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