BRITISH Airways has made a goodwill gesture to the trade by
increasing the cost of booking through its call centre or retail network from
£10 to £15.

The move follows talks with ABTA about ways to improve
relations with the agent community after BA replaced sector payments with 1%
commission.

It is aimed at helping agents charge clients fees and still
price themselves competitively against BA’s own distribution network.

The move will be effective from December 1, the date the
commission change comes into effect.

However, the charge won’t apply to sales made through
Ba.com, a growing distribution channel for the airline.

Speaking at the ABTA Convention in Palma, BA head of UK
sales Tiffany Hall said: “This shows we do genuinely value travel agents
as a distribution network, we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t.”

She added: “Our research shows customers still want to
book through travel agents and we want to make it worthwhile for agents to book
BA.”

The airline will not be bowing to ABTA’s other request of slicing
the cost of its 50p a minute Rapport telephone system.

Hall said: “We would rather cut the reasons why people
have to telephone the number than cut the costs.

“We are also making it easier for agents to find out information
through other sources, such as Ba.com.”

Hall added the airline was no closer to striking a deal with
the global distribution systems, and threatened all future sales could go via
the Internet if the issue is not resolved.

“We don’t want to go down that route because the GDSs
are a very effective means of distribution, but we’ve said it before, a £6
charge for a £50 fare is not competitive,” she said.