On the line

The Lufthansa’s Group (Lufthansa, Austrian, Swiss and Brussels Airlines) recent announcement that it will, from September, start to charge extra fees if bookings are not made directly on its own website has far reaching implications for all travellers, though not necessarily in the most expected areas.

For people that travel on a leisure basis between two points where little or no competition exists, then a simple one stop shop booking and where no changes are likely mean that the cheapest booking option can always be taken. Many people though will need options that they can mull over and indeed bookings that have a degree of flexibility in them. Just for the record, some 75% of all flight tickets that HRG Bulgaria issue, are changed at least once between the moment information is or an enquiry made, until the point they are actually ticketed. The reasons can be many: the dates or times of a meeting changes, the venue or location changes, the participants or travellers change: you name it. For any company that tries to do all this online then the end cost of going cheap might suddenly become an expensive rude awakening. This is also ignoring the fact that anything booked directly online omits the Duty of Care obligations that many large companies have to their employees through security tracking and MI handoff. Going cheap is not so easy, yet as a company, we like others have to give our clients the best deal and let them make that choice. That’s our professional duty.

Allied to this move by the Lufthansa Group, a move incidentally that all other major airlines will no doubt follow very shortly and after public and trade hostility has died down, is a not dis-similar move in the USA by Delta Air Lines who have quietly started to dictate who they will and who they wont distribute their fares through. This has even more profound implications to that area of the travel industry that has boomed in past years; the OTA’s i.e. the Online Travel Agencies.

The US media boldly announced that Delta had declared war on ‘’online travel agencies’ and whilst this may be a slight exaggeration, it may only be ‘”slight’ however! Delta’s argument, which in real terms is hard to deny, is that they can sell what they want and through whom they want. This has resulted them cutting off their supply of data to several major online sellers including to Tripadvisor and Skyscanner. There are however massive potential impacts to the man on the street with this, as all reports thus far suggest that continued restrictions by airlines of airline information – prices and schedules – substantially reduces the travellers ability to shop and compare fares.

What the airlines will never admit to is that the real objective of all these moves behind the scenes is to intentionally reduce the ability to shop and thus compare fares. By driving travellers repeatedly to their own sites, airlines are able to up sell and add on numerous other sales. In effect they not only become the supplier of a service but they also become the intermediary except they only steer towards their own products.

Imagine wanting to buy a tin of baked beans! Supermarket A and B may sell them at different prices but the buyer has the ability to shop where he wants to. Imagine if the seller of baked beans now only sold direct i.e. you had to order directly from him! Absurd this may sound but many airlines utopia of selling everything direct in the same way that Easyjet and Ryanair have largely been able to do, has just moved one step closer.


Mark Thomas

Managing Director

HRG Bulgaria