Agents and corporate travel management companies (TMCs) are “caught between a rock and a hard place” by British Airways’ imposition of a GDS booking fee, say senior industry figures.

BA and IAG-owned sister carrier Iberia will slap an £8 charge on GDS bookings from November 1.

Only bookings direct or via an NDC direct connection to the airlines or through a booking portal not yet available will avoid the fee. NDC is a direct distribution standard developed by Iata.

GDSs remain in talks with IAG on integrating an NDC ‘pipeline’ into their systems.

But Amadeus revealed on Monday that no coding could begin on this until December and would take up to 18 months.

Amadeus vice president of provider offer management David Doctor told Travel Weekly: “IAG recognises it is not ready.”

He revealed the time lag at the Guild of Travel Management Companies (GTMC) conference in Monaco, warning: “This is in flux. Iata will issue a new set of protocols in December. We’re not embarking on coding until we see the protocols because it will be hugely expensive.

“Airlines need to upgrade their systems to do the work. Coding for delivery [of a BA NDC pipeline] will take 12-18 months from the moment we see it.”

Key Travel founder Ajay Sodha said: “We’re between a rock and a hard place. BA has given us until November to develop NDC pipelines or pay the fee.”

Guild of Travel Management Companies chief executive Paul Wait told corporate travel leaders including BA head of global sales Stephen Humphreys: “Don’t disrespect the value of the channel that delivers you the greatest value.

“Explain the level of surcharge when the cost of a sector via a GDS averages £2 and the cost of attraction via Google is £16.”

A senior industry source dismissed BA’s proposed alternatives, saying: “TMCs may sign up to it. But they won’t use it. They want content in the GDS.”

The head of a leading TMC told Travel Weekly: “We won’t go direct connect. The client will pay the fee or we’ll book with a BA rival. BA doesn’t fly anywhere there isn’t a rival carrier.”