Lufthansa's imposition of a €16 fee on GDS bookings is "a defining moment for travel", according to Advantage Travel Partnership corporate director Ken McLeod.
Members of the Advantage Focus Champions group at their conference in Frankfurt on Monday listened to Lufthansa vice-president for sales and service Heike Birlenbach tell them: "Our partnership with you is important and we want to keep it. We would like to collaborate more with you."
But McLeod told the conference: "It's a huge gamble by Lufthansa. On a London-Frankfurt fare of €160 [£120] it will be 10%. There will be an impact on bookings." McLeod told Birlenbach: "You want to change distribution in the airline market."
He told Travel Weekly: "I don't believe it's a negotiating tactic. Lufthansa wants to change the market. It wants to lead the industry in changing the model [and] airlines generally are behind this."
McLeod said: "There are payments going from GDSs to agencies. We're not absolved of fault. Is it right you get paid for using technology or switching from one supplier to another? The model will have to change. GDSs will have to give up something. Airlines will have to give up something.
"But I don't think Lufthansa has thought through the processes at agency level. You have alternatives unless you're one of the big guys, whose corporate client will decide whether to book away [from Lufthansa].
"Lufthansa is important, but it would not kill our business if it wasn't as important as now. Each agency has to decide what to do. [But] no one is going to use the Lufthansa website.
"We want to deal with Lufthansa, but as of now there is nothing for me to convince members to sell more Lufthansa."
The charge will apply from September 1. Gordon Winrow, managing director of Chartwell Travel, said: "If it comes in, agents will find ways around it." Arif Kamal, revenue management director at New York-based Protravel International, added: "It's ridiculous. Why should an agent pay?"
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