With the rise of global sites such as Skyscanner, Expedia and Orbitz, more and more people are relying on online travel agencies to search for and book the very cheapest tickets for the flights you had in mind.
Except that not all airlines are cheaper when booked on a website like Expedia. In fact, airlines would much rather you book directly on their website. But none of them had found a way to do anything concrete about it. Until late 2015.
In September 2015, Lufthansa stuck its head above the parapet and tacked on an extra €16 charge to all bookings that weren’t made directly. At the time the move was met with much scepticism and it wasn’t expected to last. Yet it has. And now BA wants to follow suit.
As of the 1st November 2017, all bookings made via a third party will incur an extra £8 charge per leg.
That means you looking at paying an added £16 per person for a simple return trip.
For those connecting from regional airports, this has the potential to become very costly indeed – if you are not aware that booking directly through BA will be significantly cheaper!
Take the example of a family of 4, flying from Newcastle to Orlando, connecting at Heathrow.
Newcastle-London= £32 (4x£8)
That is a really hefty extra chunk to have to pay towards your holiday when all it has come down to is which website you used to book your tickets.
It is not yet clear if this fee will operate in the same way as Lufthansa. In their case, it is non-refundable and can be charged multiple times if the passenger is rebooked onto a different flight by a travel agent. It is even non-refundable on tickets that are fully flexible (and cancellable)!
Will such a move last?
It is hard to predict this with any certainty. It is certainly a risky move. Unassuming customers who are searching the likes of Kayak and Skyscanner will see higher BA prices and will be dissuaded from booking with them. They will not realise that those same tickets will be cheaper if booked through BA directly!
I will, however, say this. Despite the intense backlash that Lufthansa faced from travel agents and booking groups when it introduced the fee, it held its ground. It now seems to have done rather well, contrary to the dire predictions emanating from some quarters and reports that the effects of this change have been inconsequential.
If BA was able to successfully implement the same model with equal ‘success’, I daresay the cost-cutting division at BA would be more than happy to allow this change to take permanent roots.
This is a useful development to be aware of. Assuming it is introduced as planned, your best strategy as of November will be to still use sites such as Expedia and Skyscanner to search and compare the best flight options, but remember to visit ba.com directly if you do decide that you will be booking tickets with BA.