Lufthansa has defended the €16 (£11.20) fee on global distribution system (GDS) bookings it introduced last September, insisting: “We think it’s the right move.”
But travel management companies (TMCs) questioned the impact of the fee on the corporate travel market.
Adam Knights, managing director of ATPI, suggested that leisure agents should be concerned.
Christian Schindler, Lufthansa’s UK and Ireland general manager, said: “We’re not against TMCs.We talk to them and do business together, but business is moving on.
“We want to offer the same thing in other channels as on our website. What channel a customer uses is their choice. If they choose the GDS, they pay more. There is a channel difference.”
He dismissed figures released by the Guild of Travel Management Companies last month suggesting Lufthansa’s UK market share had fallen since it introduced the fee.
“The GTMC only has its members’ figures,” he said. “It’s only part of the picture.”
Schindler also denied claims that Lufthansa is discounting fares to keep prices below those of rivals despite the fee. He said: “We haven’t discounted fares. In Europe we have a new fare system. You can book a fully flexible fare or a ‘light’ fare if you book one hour before a flight or 360 days before.”
However, Knights said: “I question whether booking direct [with Lufthansa] is significantly cheaper [than the GDS]. The [Lufthansa] fare and fee is still lower [than some rivals’].
“It’s not good for customers if direct connectivity with Lufthansa is cheaper by €16. Customers need to be challenging this.
“We don’t see the need to sign a direct-connect deal with Lufthansa. Booking through the GDS, with the security and data [that provides], is efficient. If a BA flight cost €400 and Lufthansa was €416, the corporate customer would still book [Lufthansa] with the TMC, but a leisure customer would book BA. Lufthansa wants to take out the cost of the GDS for a price-driven leisure booking. It’s a leisure issue.”
Jason Geall, vice-president and UK general manager at American Express Global Business Travel, said: “[The fee] has increased costs. It doesn’t offer choice. Customers will make their minds up.
“Amex has no direct connect with Lufthansa. All our bookings go through the GDS.
“Customers want the ability to choose from all fares.”