British Airways signed a new three-year agreement with Galileo, the GDS unit of Travelport.
It is the first GDS agreement announced by the carrier since its previous pacts expired at the end of February. The new deal, which goes into effect April 10, is basically a "continuation" of Galileo's travel agency opt-in program that was launched in 2004, according to the carrier.
The program gives Galileo subscribers in the U.K. and Ireland access to all publicly available fares, provided they opt in to the program. British Airways said Galileo would provide additional details "in due course."
In a statement, Tiffany Hall, the carrier's head of marketing and distribution, said British Airways is continuing its negotiations with Amadeus, Sabre and Worldspan.
Last week, Galileo said it was removing travel agency opt-in fees on British Airways bookings while it continued negotiations with the airline. The announcement of the deal with the largest GDS in the U.K. should allay some of the apprehension that has been raised over the pending negotiations between the carrier and GDS companies. Corporate travel managers have expressed concern that British Airways might impose new surcharges or withhold content if it could not achieve a satisfactory deal.
"The big fear was that there would be a wholesale cost transfer or that full content would be fragmented," said Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition. "Neither of those things has materialized."
However, he added, "the caveat is that the devil is in the details," which could include, for example, higher fees for certain types of fares. In general, Mitchell said, it looks like the deal "is heading toward the middle ground, where nobody has all the marbles."
Meanwhile, British Airways told investors last week that it continues to promote direct bookings on its Web site. More than 1 million bookings are made on ba.com per month, it said.
While the carrier's costs of sale have declined overall in the last five years, GDS costs have risen as a percentage of the total cost of sale, from 9% in 2001-2002 to 12% in 2005-2006.