BRITISH
Airways has defended its decision to cut agent commission to 1% claiming it has
never been BA’s responsibility to support agents.

Head
of corporate and UK sales Ian Heywood said he did not receive a single
telephone call complaining about the cut after it was announced.

Instead,
Heywood said the move enabled the company to continue charging low fares to compete
with the no-frills carriers. He said he would ask agents: “Do you book low-cost
carriers, and how much do they pay you? So why do you expect me to pay? I am
competing with them.”

Director
of sales worldwide Dale Moss said: “Perhaps over time the trade will understand
we are responding to market forces. It has never been a better time for really
good agents, but it may be a bad time for the mediocre ones.

“It
has never been our responsibility or anybody’s responsibility to support
others. These are difficult times. Everybody has to step up and provide value
for customers.”

Addressing
journalists at a briefing in Nice last week, BA said it has seen a growth in
premium leisure travel, but only 15 of its first-class routes were highly
profitable.

BA
plans to open three new routes to Italy and develop Internet check-in where
travellers can print off tickets at home. It is hoping to launch this service
early next year.