Travel agents protest at new AA fees

The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) today condemned American Airlines’ policy, announced yesterday, to impose a fee of $3.50 per segment on segments booked on Global Distribution Systems (GDS) not favored by American.    “Travel agents and their customers must have access to full content, meaning all commercially useable fares, of every airline,” said Kathryn W. Sudeikis, CTC, president and CEO of ASTA.

“Travel agents provide the highest yield customers to the airlines, give the airline customer advice and encouragement and generally relieve the airlines of the burden and obligation to personally care for customers who do not, for reasons sufficient to them, want to use the Internet to book. American’s announcement tells every travel agency in America: if you want to sell us, run your business the way we tell you or you’ll be forced to pay us for the privilege of booking our services.

“This policy of shifting still more costs off of American’s financial statements onto the backs of travel agents and their customers is unconscionable,” Sudeikis continued. “American is trying to use its market power to impose its costs on other market players, as a condition to providing what travel agents clearly require to do business efficiently.

“To make matters worse, American did not coordinate with all of the so-called ‘preferred’ GDSs, so travel agents are still in the dark about the financial terms that each option provides. American has allowed only six weeks for agents to sort this out after the other GDSs make their financial terms for full-content opt-in clear. As of today, only Sabre has done so and that was a few weeks ago.

“It is ASTA’s opinion that American’s announcement threatens to throw the industry into chaos.”

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The following summarizes American’s “Source Premium Policy,” as explained by American yesterday:

Effective Sept. 1, 2006, American Airlines will impose a $3.50 per segment fee on all travel agency bookings made through what it calls “high cost” booking channels, meaning bookings made by ALL Sabre and Amadeus subscribers. It also applies to bookings made by Worldspan’s existing and Optional Product #2 subscribers, and “Other Galileo/Apollo Program” subscribers. Agents who elect to subscribe to Worldspan’s “Optional Product #1” or Galileo’s “Optional Program”, or to G2 Switchworks’ and Farelogix’ products, are exempt.
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