RELATIONS between the trade and British Airways have
sunk to a new low after the flag carrier announced plans to ditch its
controversial sector payments in favour of an derisory 1% commission.

The airline will make the change from December 1,
arguing it needs to reduce distribution costs further to match the no-frills
airlines which have eaten into its revenues.

Agents are once again vowing to switch-sell away from
the carrier and have accused BA of treating them with contempt.

The move represents a major U-turn by the airline
after it fought hard against retailers to implement sector payments only two
years ago.

Head of UK sales Tiffany Hall said: “A lot of changes
have taken place in the market over the past two years and we just cannot
afford to pay a certain level of commission anymore.

“Business today is even more challenging than when we
undertook the first Future Size and Shape exercise.”

ABTA aviation chief Sandy MacPherson said: “I’m
extremely disappointed, it’s a real kick in the teeth for agents. We did not
expect this and have been given very little time to contest it.”

ABTA is insisting the trade
needs more time to enable agents to change their businesses to cope with an
expected drop in income.