If you were following the travel news last week, you have probably already heard about the big Lufthansa news. Starting on the 1st of September, all airlines of the Lufthansa group are going to add a 16€ fee to every booking made via GDS. The “Distribution Cost Charge” affects Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines and Swiss International Airlines, but will not be added to tickets purchased through their own website, airline ticket counters or service centers. Many people are upset about the change, but Jens Bischof, chief commercial officer of Lufthansa, is convinced that “Somebody’s got to do it” - So Lufthansa did and decided that it’s time to focus on its commercial strategies.
Amadeus immediately expressed its shock and claimed that the changes were “completely unknown” to them and that they do not have a new contract with the Lufthansa Group. ”LHG’s true intentions were not shared with us”, stated a memo which was e-mailed to Amadeus customers after the news became public.
Since Lufthansa won’t have a full content deal, their fares are more than likely going to differ between direct and indirect distribution channels. It might give the LHG more freedom, but will put travel agencies at a huge disadvantage. The market is in rage and many worried TMCs have beencalling us since Lufthansa’s announcement, asking for our NDC/GDS capabilities and requesting demos.
To give you a compact overview, I gathered up all important sources to keep you up to date. You can easily access them by clicking on the following links:
Lufthansa to add surcharge to every booking made via the GDS – via Tnooz
Lufthansa to add surcharge for GDS bookings – via Travel Weekly
Lufthansa's GDS fee, designed to cut costs, will penalize agents – via Travel Weekly
Lufthansa ‘ready to co-operate’ but not going back on GDS fee – via Buying Business Travel
Amadeus: ‘No new deal with Lufthansa’ – via Travel Market Report
Amadeus explicitly denies supporting Lufthansa’s new commercial strategy – via Tnooz
Lufthansa's GDS ticketing fee draws criticism from Amadeus – via Travolution
UFTAA responds to Lufthansa’s announcement on charging €16 for each GDS reservation – via Financial Express
GTMC in talks with Lufthansa over GDS charge – via Buying Business Travel
Lufthansa redirects commercial strategy – via Lufthansa Group
Industry hits back at Lufthansa over ‘exorbitant’ GDS charge – via Buying Business Travel
The way I see it Lufthansa is just following negotiating tactics with the announcement of the GDS fee. I’m sure that a full content deal will be available in about three months – of course under better terms. The tactic of promoting direct distribution and benefit from cutting costs is also described in my book in detail:
Value Creation in Travel Distribution (Excerpt) – Chapter 3.2
Increasing numbers of commercial air carriers consider high distribution fees to be a thorn in their sides.
Direct distribution supplier savings
Assume that an Airline pays USD 12.00 per booking to the GDS while it pays only USD 3.00 to an alternative provider. In this example, the airline handles 100 million passengers each year and processes 50% of the bookings directly, most likely via their own website. This leaves 50 million that are processed by the GDS. That means USD 600 million in fees. If the airline were to move 5% of this volume to alternative channels, USD 22.5 million would be saved. On the other hand, its negotiating position vis-à-vis the GDSs would be much better and certainly USD 12.00 can be much more easily reduced to USD 8.00 per booking given the GDS’s risk of losing their entire business. Based on this example, actively supporting an alternative provider would mean the airline could save over USD 200 million per year - while the alternative provider would receive USD 7.5 million in financing annually - a considerable sum for start-ups – and this is just one airline considered.
That means that while low-cost carriers (LCCs) are increasingly maneuvering their inventory to the inventory unit of the GDSs (easyjet, Jetblue, Westjet), major airlines are trying to exert more control over their distribution actively influencing the distribution unit of the GDSs. This again highlights the logic and importance of separating inventory management and distribution.
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