BA axe falls on small operators

TOUR operators have accused British
Airways of pricing them out of the market after the flag carrier slashed the
number of companies it supplies with contracted net and inclusive tour rates.

In yet another cost-cutting move, BA has told 120
operators they will now have to go through general sales agent Live to get hold
of net and inclusive tour fares as it will be concentrating on just 35
preferred partners.

To qualify as a preferred partner, a tour operator
must either turn over £1 million worth of BA business, of which 40% must be in
premium classes, or £5 million in any class.

But dumped operators are outraged, claiming Live’s
service charge of £7.50 for short-haul fares and £15 on long-haul will make
them uncompetitive against BA’s preferred suppliers.

Tana Travel managing director Neil Basnett said: “BA
just wants to work with a handful of operators and alienate the rest.

“Buying in seats from a GSA will increase costs to
ourselves and our customers.”

The Midconsort chairman predicted operators will sell
away from the carrier and described the move as “another kick in the teeth” to
operators who have supported BA. Tana Travel increased BA sales by 42% over the
past year.

Another operator affected by the move, Scandinavian
specialist Norvista, claimed its costs could increase by up to 12% as 40% of
its flights are with BA. Operations director Rakesh Patel said: “As far as
price is concerned it’s going to put us out and will also affect our product

As part of the move, which comes into force in
September, the airline’s telephone sales support service for operators will be
closed down, with staff redeployed on the preferred partners’ accounts.

BA remained unrepentant, stating it has no influence
over Live’s charging policy.

BA sales manager for inclusive tours Lesley Corner
said: “We no longer have the resources to handle these smaller accounts and we
felt it best for them to go through one channel.”

BA said the 35 preferred suppliers account for 80% of
its revenues in the inclusive tour market.



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