EasyJet has warned business travel agents they will pay a fee to book flights through any channel other than direct, regardless of whether they accept a charge on bookings via global distribution systems.

The carrier defended its retention of a fee for GDS bookings despite cutting the charge from £5 to £3.30 per sector last week in face of continuing opposition from the Guild of Travel Management Companies (Travel Weekly, September 5).

EasyJet distribution development manager Jerry Dunn said: “We felt £5 was fair, but have reconsidered. We hope the new level is more acceptable.”

However, he added: “We will not be participating in a GDS without a point-of-sale fee, and any third-party system – GDS or non-GDS – will apply the £3.30 fee. This is not a negotiating position.”

Dunn warned: “If TMCs do not embrace this, the danger is we will not perceive GDSs as positively. It needs to work.”

EasyJet continues to sign API (Application Programming Interface) deals with intermediary online systems. These give access to the EasyJet booking system in return for a fee.

Dunn said: “Virtually all the major players are signed up and others will be on board in the next weeks. It will not be possible [for systems] to continue screen scraping.”

EasyJet has only been available on GDSs – on the Amadeus and Travelport systems – in the past year. GTMC members have continued to book the carriers’ flights, but avoided doing so via the GDSs.

Sabre has gone along with the GTMC’s stance and so far not signed a deal with EasyJet, but the pair remain in talks.

Dunn said: “We are confident we will be able to make an agreement.”

He insisted the row had not affected EasyJet’s traffic, saying: “We do not believe we missed out on any business.”

EasyJet reported strong figures for August, with traffic up 24% year on year to almost 4.6 million passengers and 91% of seats sold. The airline has carried 42.9 million passengers so far this year – 16% up on 2007.