Lufthansa likely will make
changes to its highly contentious corporate contracts for 2012, BTN has
learned. "Modifications are being looked at," according to a
German travel managers'
association VDR, which recently published an airline agreement template for its
members, confirmed that it too is expecting revisions to the contracts.
"There are some signals that Lufthansa has listened to the market, that it
needs to do something different," said VDR executive director Hans-Ingo
Biehl. "We hope to see a new contract for 2012, especially in terms of the
handling of client data."
Lufthansa's agreements for German corporate customers have been extremely controversial for two main reasons: the
insertion of penalty clauses that lead to fines for customers if they fail to
meet spend targets, and a requirement that clients must forward all their
corporate card data to Lufthansa's card-issuing subsidiary AirPlus
International. Some clients, including major multinational corporations, have
refused to sign deals with the airline, and Germany's cartel office, the Bundeskartellamt, has launched a probe into whether the contracts illegally
enable Lufthansa to gain access to confidential competitive information.
Lufthansa Group has denied the
accusation, saying the information is kept from its passenger airline through a
series of "Chinese walls." It is expected that clauses related to
card data will be among those revised in the 2012 contracts, following talks with
the Bundeskartellamt. Lufthansa would not comment. "At this point in time
we cannot confirm the specifics of contracts for 2012 because there has not
been any official notification to customers," a spokeswoman said.
VDR's Contract Template
VDR has weighed into the airline
contracting debate by publishing in late August its own model airline contract.
At the request of members, the template is available in English as well as
German, in part so that it can be used with airlines based in other countries.
Biehl said VDR is in negotiations to make the template available to members of
the Global Business Travel Association, a partner organization.
A VDR taskforce spent 10 months
designing the model contract in consultation with specialist lawyers.
"Most of the time, airlines are using their templates for corporate
contracts," said Biehl. "Only the big corporations use their own
procurement contracts. If you are using one provided by the airline, then the
legal departments within corporate clients don't usually have enough expertise
in airline language, so it often ends up going backwards and forwards. Our
template provides some definitions of what a tariff is, because if you ask
three airlines to define a fare, they give you four different
Biehl added that the model
agreement is designed to avoid some of the pitfalls clients have faced. Some
corporate customers signed the Lufthansa contracts without proper scrutiny and
discovered belatedly that they had committed themselves to surrendering card
Whether airlines will agree to
sign contracts based on the VDR template remains to be seen. "We have
consulted airlines on our template as well, but not so many and not necessarily
Lufthansa," said Biehl. "They see the sense of it but they have stated
there are some areas in the contract they don't want. We regard this as a basis
for a good negotiation. We want to see a fair partnership between airlines and