Carrier angers agents who rely on GDSs with plan to make cheaper fares available to those with NDC agreements. Ian Taylor reports

British Airways will introduce differential fares, or ‘discriminatory’ pricing, next year with “price points” on offer direct and to agents with NDC agreements different to fares generally available via GDSs.

BA confirmed the move last week, promising the launch of “more content to the trade in the first half of 2018, thanks to [the] New Distribution Capability (NDC)”.

The carrier said the new pricing will start “with new short-haul price points”. But agents outside the NDC-enabling agreements BA has signed with leading travel management companies (TMCs) and some leisure agencies will miss out and face the £8 ‘per fare component’ distribution technology charge BA has imposed on GDS bookings on top.

BA chief commercial officer Adam Daniels hailed “the successful introduction” of the surcharge by the airline and sister carrier Iberia on November 1.

He said: “We’ve received great support from the trade, including signing new, modified agreements with the three GDSs and over 50 of the top UK agents with the view to them developing NDC connections with us.”

Daniels said: “We know this is a significant change for agents and we understand the implementation of NDC requires some planning.

“We’ll be introducing significantly more short-haul price points. NDC will support these new products. We’re confident these can be made available to trade partners who have such a connection in place.”

Ken McLeod, Advantage Travel Partnership director of industry affairs and president of the SPAA Scottish agents’ association, said: “This is about the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. Unless you have an agreement with BA you can’t get access to the fares.

“There is a range of different deals with different agents. There is no question there will be a difference in pricing. It means a lot will be hidden from the view of a lot of agents.”

BA confirmed: “This is the first of many new products we expect to provide that will have features supported by NDC.

“Agents that adopt an NDC connection [will] have access to all the airline’s inventory, including discounted fares.”

The carrier said it “is working to give agents more options, including a direct NDC connection, access to NDC via the GDSs or through technology providers such as Travelfusion or Hitchhiker”.

Travelfusion is a London-based technology provider and Hitchhiker a German-based company which signed an NDC-partnership deal with BA in July.

BA claims NDC connections will allow agents to “service bookings by holding them, paying at a later date, cancelling and amending an itinerary, adding ancillaries, pre-booking additional luggage, adding Executive Club numbers to enable tracking and paying via Iata’s BSP. [Agents] can also advise the airline of catering requests for pre-order meals or special meal orders.”

BA and Iberia’s introduction of a GDS fee followed that of Lufthansa in 2015, with Air France-KLM now also planning to add a fee from April.

Christoph Klenner, secretary general of the European Travel and Technology Services Association (ETTSA), denounced the fees as “discriminatory” last month.

He said: “The three most-powerful airline groups in Europe now consistently and systematically discriminate against consumers who wish to compare fares across airlines in a neutral manner.”