THE trade is facing months of global distribution
system upheaval with British Airways planning to drop at least one of the four
suppliers and Amadeus gearing up to charge agents fees.

Sources claim BA is close to concluding high-level
talks with all four GDSs, with the likely outcome the complete withdrawal from
at least one GDS and reduced fees with the remaining suppliers.

An industry source said: “BA will drop at least one of
its GDSs and announce reduced terms with the others. It is just finalising
deals and hopes to announce something before Christmas.”

The source claimed BA held talks with major on-line
retailers and consolidators about establishing dedicated BA links and taking
their fares off GDSs altogether, but the idea fell flat following a negative
reaction.

Galileo and Worldspan both admit talks with BA are
ongoing and hope to strike a deal soon.

Cendant Travel Distribution Services regional UK and
Ireland marketing manager Nikki Harrison said: “We are very close to an
agreement. Discussions are taking place between our lawyers and BA’s.”

A Worldspan spokesman said he was confident a
“mutually beneficial” deal could be struck.

A BA spokesman said: “We are talking to the GDSs so
rumours are bound to come out, but nothing is confirmed.”

In a further blow, Amadeus has confirmed fees are on
the way in exchange for access to airlines’ cheapest priced stock.

Next year it will scrap blanket fees and introduce
tiered payment based on where the fare was bought and the type of ticket.
Agents charges are likely to follow in 2005.

The move will initially affect the US, but is likely
to be extended to the Europe once deregulation is confirmed. 

Executive vice-president-commercial David Jones said:
“We’ll get to a model where agents contribute to GDS costs in return for access
to low fare content.”