UPDATE: Travelport issued a statement 12 hours later:
From chief commercial officer of the GDS business, Kurt Ekert:
"We welcome AA’s decision to remove its surcharges on bookings made through the Travelport GDS in markets outside of the US and Caribbean. This is good news for the travel industry and consumers alike. As a result of AA's decision, Travelport will remove the AA surcharge fee with effect from midnight GMT on 17 February 2011. Meanwhile, we thank our customers around the world for the overwhelming support we have received for our position in this matter."
Another twist in the American Airlines-Travelport saga with news that the airline has axed the controversial fare surcharge it was imposing on agents.
A letter sent to agents in Asia-Pacific and Europe today (from Theo Panagiotoulias, VP and MD APAC and Maria Sebastian, VP sales and marketing in EMEA respectively) says the airline will "not move forward with collection of the Booking Source Premium" and that bookings of AA and Eagle flights using Worldspan or Galileo will not incur an additional fee.
AA originally planned to collect the BSP by way of Automated Debit Memos from agents after December 20 2010. The fee "preserved your [agent] ability to use Travelport, but was intended to reduce the increased cost to American".
The letter continues:
"Travelport then imposed a new punitive tactic, misrepresenting American’s fares in its GDS by adding an estimate of the Booking Source Premium as a 'tax' owed by customers. Travelport’s actions created tremendous confusion in the market and hurt our travel agency partners, and our customers."
But the airline is now taking a different tact, putting a counter offer for Travelport to drop the additional fees it began charging American Airlines after the airline removed its flights from Orbitz..
The letter did contain another threat to Travelport, claiming that if the GDS "continues to misuse its market position to impose punitive rates" then it will be forced to reinstate the BSP and possibly remove all its content from Travelport.
"The Travelport tax had no justification when it started and has none today. American hopes its decision will be a positive step forward for our industry. Pending resolution in the existing legal actions between American and Travelport, American will provide further information about how past collections of this false tax may be rectified."
Some may see this latest twist as a reach out for compromise or even a climbdown on the part of American Airlines, but the airline is resolute with its decision to introduce the direct-connect model, despite dropping the BSP.
"The actions taken by Travelport were harmful to customers by imposing a false tax and requiring consumers to pay a fee that AA does not charge consumers. Travel agencies were also hurt by Travelport providing them with inaccurate information about AA’s fares and schedules making them less competitive than those agents accessing the data from sources other than Travelport."
The airline says Travelport's actions [to add the so-called YY Tax] were "harmful" to American, a assertion it says will be "proven" in the ongoing litigation.
Travelport and AA are currently locked in a series of lawsuits in the US, emanating in part from what Travelport believes is a breach of its full content agreement with the airline.
Travelport has declined to comment on the latest move in the saga.
An official from American Airlines says:
"Travelport’s actions created tremendous confusion in the market and hurt American, our travel agency partners, and our customers. We want to eliminate the confusion created by Travelport’s wrongful actions and by removing the Booking Source Premium we expect Travelport to immediately drop the false tax it unilaterally has added to American’s fares and imposed on the travelling public.
"As of February 16, 2011, American will not move forward with collection of the Booking Source Premium. No bookings of American Airlines/American Eagle flight segments made using the Travelport GDSs will attract the Booking Source Premium, and no ADMs for the Booking Source Premium will be issued."