Agents pessimistic on IATA talks

European business travel agents are not expecting any major gains at their meeting with IATA on October 18 in their campaign to persuade the airline cartel to change it rules.

Representatives of the Guild of European Business Travel Agents (GEBTA) and ECTAA which also represents agents will meet IATA and EC officials in Brussels to discuss the process and cost of agent accreditation.

But the meeting is also expected to consider the three other areas where agents want a rule change: EU STPs, access across the market to all airline fares and a single European BSP.

Philip Carlisle, ceo of Britain's Guild of Business Travel Agents (GBTA), said he was “not optimistic” the October meeting would bring changes.

At the previous meeting between the sides in July, IATA agreed to end the use of identifier codes on tickets after January 15, a decision it had taken anyway. But it rejected all other requests.

One industry experts said he thought failure at the talks could force the EC to make a decision on whether IATA's rules which date back to 1945 are anti-competitive as GEBTA and ECTAA claim.

“I don't think IATA will yield anything but it could mean that the noose around its neck it tightens with the EC being forced to make a decision on its anti-competitive rules,” he said.

At the London ACTE Forum earlier this month, Mr Carlisle revealed that the agents had set up a feasibility study to see whether they could create a replacement billing and settlement plan to by-pass IATA. The study is due to be published on November 25.

But he added: “It can only happen if it is attractive to the airlines and a good deal cheaper.”

Mike Platt, managing director of BTI UK, told delegates the IATA rules were “the most one-sided, biased set of rules you will ever find and the corporates are footing the bill for them.”

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