Travellers booking Lufthansa Group tickets through an agent will soon face paying an extra booking fee of 16 euros (£11.60).
The new fee applies to all the carriers in the Lufthansa Group — Lufthansa itself plus Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines and Swiss.
Until now, Lufthansa has subsidised the extra costs when passengers book through an agent, who in turn completes the transaction using a GDS such as Amadeus.
Lufthansa claims that GDS fees are several times higher than if the booking was made through one of its own online channels.
Now, in a bid to increase revenue, Lufthansa has decided that from September 1 it will apply a GDS charge for each booking. Currently, Lufthansa does not levy a GDS fee.
Agents and passengers who book online directly with the Lufthansa Group or who book direct in person will not pay this new fee.
Lufthansa COO Jens Bischof said: “Until now, the percentage of revenue generated from the sale of flight tickets by the airlines has continuously decreased while that of other services and systems partners are recording increasing margins.”
The announcement of the GDS fee is accompanied by confirmation that Lufthansa will introduce a new modular fares concept this summer (for flights booked in the autumn) which will see Light, Classic and Flex fares within Europe (see news, March 30).
Each fare category comes with its own services and variety of options. It will be extended to all Lufthansa Group carriers although, as we have previously reported, it is already being trialled by Brussels Airlines and Swiss (at Geneva only).
All told, Lufthansa claims that its new commercial policy will generate an extra 1.5 billion euros within this year.
Those passengers most affected will be large firms booking very frequent Lufthansa short-haul flights as the fee will apply per booking.
At the time of writing, it is unclear whether the travel agent will absorb the fee or simply add it to the account service charge. No doubt much will depend on the size of the account and how much custom the client is placing with the airlines concerned.
Amadeus today criticised the move. In a statement, it said Lufthansa Group is “introducing charges that will penalise travellers based on the shopping channel they use.
“Travellers will either pay more for the same service or, in the case that travel agencies are forced to accept this new commercial strategy by modifying the way they access content just for Lufthansa Group, there will be extra IT costs that may ultimately be passed on to the traveller, putting the travel agent, and/or the end consumer, at a disadvantage.
“This new model will make comparison and transparency more difficult because travellers will now be forced to go to multiple channels to search for the best fares. Ultimately, the industry overall stands to lose from this distribution model.”