Travelport insists its commitment to developing new services justifies its decision to introduce a universal fee for agents to access its products.
Agents accessing the GDS through desktops, rather than API connections, are now expected to pay a monthly user fee for what Travelport calls Agility – a bundle of services and products.
Simon Ferguson, Travelport UK and Ireland director, concedes that introducing the fee part way through contracts has angered some agents.
But he said the move only placed all agents on the same agreements after charges had not been applied consistently before.
Ferguson said: “We have had licence charging for years; we have just not applied it uniformly.
“The principle is that if we are providing value as a GDS, we should be able to charge a reasonable service fee.
“Any agent using either the Galileo or Worldspan systems should be paying a charge. In reality, some are paying and some are not.
“Each year we spend a large percentage of our revenues on research and development – more [of a percentage] than Apple – and we plan to sustain that. We think it’s fair our customers pay a nominal fee.”
“What we are saying to travel agents is: ‘We are developing lots of exciting ancillary products and the best way for us to deliver those to you is through value-based charging’.
“We decided to bring in a programme which allows agents to get products at a better value.”
Ferguson explained Travelport had originally planned to launch its desktop graphical interface Smartpoint last year with a charge for each user. Instead, it opted to introduce Agility which bundles a number of products, including Smartpoint, along with others such as itinerary-planner Viewtrip.
Smartpoint is available in the Agility package at no extra charge, with Travelport asking agents to pay a lower fee per user than its initial proposed charge for Smartpoint on its own.
Ferguson said the company has no plans to increase the charge, other than to take account of inflation, even when new products are added.
He said: “It’s like Sky TV; you pay a standard access subscription fee and, within that, you get a range of content. If you went out to source that individually, you would pay a lot more.”
Ferguson insisted: “The best way to provide value to agents is to ask them to pay a monthly fee for access to our product.”