Travel agencies connected to the Travelport-run GDSs were notified this week of significant changes to the core platform and their commercial terms from 2012.
Known as the Agility programme, agencies using the Worldspan, Galileo and Apollo distribution platforms will have to install from 1 January next year a new desktop system for access to products, fares and availability.
The move also sees the official roll-out of Travelport's Smartpoint system (introduced in some markets in August 2011), a system said to improve the user experience of the existing, traditional green screens by combining some of the original processes favoured by many agents with a modern look and feel.
It is, Travelport says, the next step towards eventually putting every connected-agent onto the modular and Windows-style Universal Desktop currently undergoingtrials in each of the company's key markets.
Agencies have been given 30 days to get ready for the switch to the new platform, a process achieved by way of downloading and upgrading to the new software for each agency desktop.
The so-called Agility bundle also comes with access for Galileo customers to the new Rooms and More accommodation search and booking platform, as well as ePricing shopping engine and the Smartpoint overlay.
Worldspan agents will have the Go Translator App installed instead of the Smartpoint system.
Alongside the technology behind bringing every Travelport-connected agent onto a unified system, Agility will also coincide with the introduction of a pricing structure for customers, also beginning from 1 January 2012.
A fee for connecting to Travelport will be levied from that date, a monthly subscription (rather than based on search or transaction volume) of $25 per desktop user.
Travelport believes the benefit of gaining access to the bundle of services and support will offset the financial outlay required by agencies.
The commission gained from a single booking via the Rooms and More service is said be of similar value to the monthly commission for agency desktop, is one example being given.
It is, however, too early to gauge the reaction of agencies to the introduction of the fee as most were told only this week by their account managers or via an official email notification.
Travelport is not alone in charging for subscriptions, with other GDSs having introduced some element of connection fees for acesss to content and services in some markets .
Although the impact on small agencies is expected to be felt less than larger companies with multiple units, pricing around the introduction of the Agility programme and subscription is likely to vary in different markets.
Chief operating officer Kurt Ekert says the move to introduce the new platform is "evolutionary not revolutionary", claiming it will improve the agent desktop experience alongside Travelport being able to service agents in a more efficient way through further upgrades and access to technology.
"We want to help customers with what they want, how they want it, and where they want it," he says. "It also gives customers a common platform with access to premium products."
The launch of the Agility programme is being talked of internally as one of the biggest initiatives by Travelport in recent years and follows the introduction of its Developer Network in November, moves to extend its debt repayment programme to 2016 in September and the unveiling of Rooms and More earlier this year.