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American Airlines will delay by at least another month its
controversial agency debit memos to travel agencies using Travelport-owned
global distribution systems Galileo and Worldspan outside the Americas.
When American in November said the new "Booking Source
Premium" Travelport surcharges would begin in February for travel taking
place after Dec. 20, travel agency organizations argued that the use of ADMs violated International Air Transport Association regulations. Last week, travel
management company officials with HRG and ATP International told The Beat they
would reject any such ADMs issued by AA.
ATPI also said it is booking away from AA and has dropped
the airline from its websites for leisure and small-business travelers in the
In a statement emailed Feb. 8, AA said it is "still
doing processing work for issuing the debit memos and at this point we do not
anticipate that memos will be sent out this month. We will be in a better
position to more accurately estimate when debit memos will begin to go out in a
few weeks. Debit memos will actually be issued in arrears for previous months
and combined together on a single agency monthly memo with all debits for the Booking
Source Premium together. The first memos will be for the Dec. 20-31 time
period, followed by January, February, etc."
HRG group distribution and technology director Bill Brindle
said his company would send the ADMs into a dispute process because it
considers them illegal. "We will reject them and tell AA to send us an
invoice," said Brindle. "Then we'll take the invoices in and review
whether they are justified. ADMs are for ticketed bookings, and booking fees
are not ticketed."
An American Airlines spokesman declined to comment on
whether the airline would send invoices. The company is in the midst of a
multifaceted legal and commercial dispute with Travelport.
AA introduced its Travelport surcharge in retaliation for a
hike in segment fees by Travelport outside the United States, Canada, Mexico
and Latin America. AA managing director of distribution and merchandising
strategy Bridget Blaise-Shamai in December court testimony said those rate
increases by Travelport would amount to $20 million annually for the airline.
ATPI divisional managing director Peter Muller said he was
angry about being caught in the middle of the dispute. "We have been drawn
into this as TMCs who happen to use Galileo," he said. "We're being
used as pawns. I'm not convinced AA is winning hearts and minds this way. It is
also a matter of principle. If this is allowed to happen, other airlines will
ATPI, which operates in 27 countries worldwide and is
particularly strong in the United Kingdom and Netherlands, said it too would
reject the ADMs on the grounds that they are illegal. Outlining further
punitive action, Muller said: "We are selling away from AA where we can.
We have written to tell them that. Where customers have an AA contract, we have
written and told them about the surcharge. We have also removed AA from our
HRG chief executive David Radcliffe also said it is
necessary for TMCs to take a stand. "As a principle, we are against
anything which results in an additional charge for the client, so we will be
fighting this hard," he said.
Anne Godfrey, chief executive of the UK's Guild of Travel
Management Companies, said her organization has advised its members to reject
AA's debit memos.
Source: The Beat