Lufthansa will impose a €16 (£12) fee on all fares booked through global distribution systems (GDSs) from September 1.
The ‘Distribution Cost Charge’ will apply not just to Lufthansa but to Swiss, Brussels Airlines and Austrian Airlines flights. Announced on Tuesday, it will primarily hit agents in the carriers’ home markets, but it will apply on all GDS bookings in all markets including the UK.
Agents must book direct on Lufthansa group website lhgroup-agent.com to avoid the fee. Corporate clients will be encouraged to book direct.
Lufthansa chief operating officer Jens Bischof said: “We will differentiate between booking channels. We need to increase our profits. The costs for using GDSs are several times higher than for other booking methods. Yearly GDS costs come to three-digit million euros for the group.”
Amadeus warned the charges “will penalise travellers”, saying: “Travellers will either pay more for the same service or, in the case that travel agencies accept this by modifying the way they access content, there will be extra IT costs that may be passed on, putting the agent and/or consumer at a disadvantage.” It added: “This will make comparison and transparency more difficult.”
Bischof insisted €16 was the cost difference between direct and GDS bookings and suggested Lufthansa was paying for GDS services which benefit “online and offline travel agents”. He said: “Agents will have a choice. We are not willing to pay the bill of others anymore.”
The Lufthansa chief added: “We have new contractual arrangements with Amadeus and Sabre. We will use GDSs but we will redistribute the financial burden.” The carrier is in talks with Travelport.
Paul Wait, head of travel management company group the GTMC, said: “Lufthansa is encouraging fragmentation, it appears with the view that customers will put up with the cost. For Lufthansa to say ‘you can go to a trade website’ misses the point.”
Lufthansa expects to report an annual operating profit of €1.5 billion.