British Airways imposes surcharge on tickets not booked through NDC connection

British Airways and sister carrier Iberia are to levy a £8 fee on every fare booked on systems not using an NDC-led connection.

The surcharge will come into force from November this year, the pair told agencies in a letter today (Friday), covering fares in all cabins and classes.

Other channels that are exempt include its own website, airline sales offices and call centres, as well as the following channels:

  • NDC direct connection
  • NDC via an IT service provider/aggregator
  • Self-booking tools connected to BA or IB via NDC
  • IAG Booking Portal (to be available shortly)
  • Other travel intermediaries, including GDS, that adopt NDC based connections in the future

The fee is being set to recover “the additional costs applied” on existing distribution channels – namely the Global Distribution Systems.

The announcement comes almost two years to the day since fellow European carrier Lufthansa unveiled its plan to add a tax to any booking made through Travelport, Amadeus and Sabre.

The letter to agencies says:

“Our distribution strategy is focused on providing an enhanced range of booking options to our partners.

“We will continue to work with the GDS providers to distribute our content to our valued agency partners via existing solutions, however these systems and their traditional technology solutions currently carry significantly greater costs to BA and IB.

“We are also continuing to work with the GDSs on potential NDC connectivity.”

The threat of another major carrier joining suit has been mooted ever since Lufthansa’s move in 2015, with IAG-owned BA considered the most likely to move next given that a number of its executives had sat on the original IATA-led NDC committees.

BA says to agencies that it appreciates the introduction of a fee “represents significant change for your business”, thus the four-month period before it goes live in November.

The airline says the NDC standard “enhances the capability of communications between airlines and travel agents”, in particular regarding access to “full and rich air content”, “product differentiation” and a “transparent” booking process.

Those that continue to book BA/Iberia tickets through traditional channels will be automatically charged as part of the ticket, with a line item noted in the fare quote.

IAG family members, Aer Lingus and Vueling, are not affected by the changes.

Speaking to Tnooz during Travelport’s recent first quarter 2017 earnings call two weeks ago, CEO Gordon Wilson said of the rumoured addition of a fee:

“We have good faith talks going on and there’s nothing that they say they want to do which they can’t already do with Travelport.

“If they have an NDC protocol we are quite happy to write to it to connect some or all of their content.

“Surcharge would be a bad move and a retrograde step.”

In a follow-up to agency customers this morning, Travelport’s managing director of agency commerce, Jason Clarke, says the move is “the equivalent of a travel agency APD [Air Passenger Duty] seeking to penalise consumers who enjoy the benefits of choice, efficiency and value by booking through the travel agency medium”.

“They will be penalised both through this surcharge and the potential introduction of less efficient working practices.”

NB: British Airways image via BigStock.

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Kevin May

About the Writer :: Kevin May

Kevin May was a co-founder and member of the editorial team from September 2009 to June 2017.



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  1. Alice

    That can be considered tough and necessary regulations in aviation.

  2. Christian Kameir

    The larger point here is: book direct or pay extra .. we (BA; LH) are not paying a middleman. Expect to see AA and/or UA to follow the examples within 12 months.

    • Glenn Wallace

      The article also says that the fee won’t be assessed on GDS bookings that go through an NDC connection. I wonder if they will assess the fee on bookings that aren’t supported by their NDC channel….

  3. Glenn Wallace

    Another question: “Other travel intermediaries, including GDS, that adopt NDC based connections in the future
    The fee is being set to recover “the additional costs applied” on existing distribution channels – namely the Global Distribution Systems.”

    If the fee is “cost recovering”, how is this not another negotiation tactic? If the GDS implements some kind of NDC connection, is BA also assuming that they will pay lower segment fees?

    And finally, if NDC is so great, why aren’t agents and GDSs clamoring to use it? The entire ecosystem has been supportive and adopting of new work and new standards (electronic e-ticketing, interline e-tickets, ticketless airlines, better availability systems, automated reissues, EMDs, ancillaries, paid seats etc.) – so it is hard for anyone to claim agents and the GDSs are averse to change…

  4. Glenn Wallace

    Can you interline with all the other airlines that currently support interlining in the GDS? Feeder flights to BA’s long haul are important to revenue because they increase the reach of the network. Still haven’t heard a plan for how this is addressed by NDC…

    • Simon McLean

      Interline is already supported by the NDC specification, but does require the airline to support it.

      • Glenn Wallace

        Right, and I highly doubt they would expend the effort to support every airline in the GDS they interline with. NDC will lead to reduced flight itinerary options to customers because it relies on many-to-many connections between airlines, which is precisely why GDSs were created in the first place. And I am sure there are “aggregators” out there that support NDC interlines, but of course we’re back to the idea of “GDS new entrants” and 2006 all over again. Compared to labor, fuel, aircraft the cost of distribution is de-minimus and efforts would be better expended on generating revenue… better products, better service, more choice, new channels etc.


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