BA Threatens Fees, Content Withdrawal As Travelport Deal Nears End

Dueling client memos are a fixture of late-stage negotiations between airlines and global distribution systems. On Friday, British Airways and Travelport kept the tradition alive ahead of the scheduled Dec. 10 expiration of their full-content distribution agreement.

BA warned clients that it would pull some content from Travelport and levy surcharges if the parties do not reach "mutually acceptable full-content terms and conditions," according to a client memo from senior vice president of sales for North America Simon Brooks.

Absent a deal, the carrier on Dec. 11 would pull from Travelport's GDSs "certain of the lowest British Airways fare classes." Additionally, "short-haul economy-class fares sold through Travelport will carry a point-of-sale charge to cover a portion of the additional costs that will be associated with Travelport's services," according to Brooks, whose memo noted that BA had yet to determine the amount of the "special charge."

Brooks added that BA first would enact the changes "in certain initial countries and, if need be, expand the changes to other countries." His memo did not provide specifics.

Meanwhile, Travelport is "optimistic" a deal ultimately will be reached, according to a separate Friday memo sent to clients from chief commercial officer Kurt Ekert. "As we continue our discussions, Travelport intends to maintain the terms of its current commercial relationship with BA and our sincere hope is that BA will do likewise," Ekert wrote. "Should BA choose not to follow this course and take any actions that are not in your best interest, we will respond as appropriate and communicate more details at such time."

At least one U.K.-based TMC executive was confident an agreement will be reached. "We've seen it all before," said the executive on the condition of anonymity. "Will they reach agreement? I'm absolutely sure they will."