21 February 2007 | Paul Snell
More than 60 companies are threatening to switch airlines if British Airways changes the way travel buyers have to purchase tickets.
A letter sent by the Business Travel Coalition (BTC), which aims to lower the cost of business travel, to Willie Walsh, BA's CEO, expressed "profound concern" at reports the airline would try to impose new surcharges and withhold content from global distribution systems (GDS). These systems allow buyers to purchase tickets and make bookings for airlines, hotels and car rental quickly, easily and in one place. But BA wants more customers (at least 50 per cent) to buy directly from them, instead of through the GDSs, as part of a cost-reduction programme.
The BTC said the airline was "directly threatening the loss of valuable customers by imposing costs already included in the price of tickets". The letter urged BA to conclude negotiations with customer concerns at the top of its agenda.
It also said it was surprised that the airline would risk losing the advantages it has from its strong participation in the GDSs, which give it a "premium share" of travel buyers' business.
A BA spokesman told supplymanagement.com a range of options were being discussed with the GDSs. He did not want to comment in detail on the potential outcomes of negotiations. BA's current deals with GDS partners expire in the spring.