The German Travel Association (DRV) said nearly 75% of its members reported in a new survey that the booking behavior of their customers has changed with the introduction of the Lufthansa Group’s Distribution Cost Charge, and about 40% say that behavior had changed “greatly or very greatly.”
Customers are rethinking their previous booking patterns and considering offers from other airlines, said Stefan Vorndran, DRV board member and chairman of the DRV Business Travel Committee.
The DCC, a €16 surcharge on all bookings processed by a GDS, went into effect Sept. 1.
“GDS is the most efficient solution for companies and will therefore continue to be preferred,” Vorndran said.
DRV members—traditional and online travel agencies, tour operators and consolidators—generate about 90% of the German travel agency and tour operator market.
German Business Travel Association (VDR) president Dirk Gerdom, who appeared with Vorndran at a joint press conference in Frankfurt, said the Lufthansa Group’s current alternative to the GDS—booking on its travel agency and consumer-facing websites —is no alternative at all.
It’s not just about the booking, he said. “It also involves the issue of data protection as well as the duty of the company to the employees traveling on business.”
The Lufthansa websites’ itinerary information is “barely comprehensible,” Gerdom said, which could have fatal consequences in an emergency situation.
GDS bookings enable changes and cancellations, he noted, while the Lufthansa websites do not. Any changes require a telephone call to the airline.
The results of the DRV survey send “a clear signal to Lufthansa to reconsider its previous approach” and to come up with a new plan that maintains “a trusting relationship with its main customer group,” Vorndran said.
Gerdom added that corporate customers must be involved in the implementation of Lufthansa’s new distribution strategy “from the outset.”
Meanwhile, the Lufthansa Group contradicted the claim that there have been declines in bookings due to the introduction of the DCC.
The group said it is headed for a record result for 2015, despite a number of labor actions during the year.
It also said the proportion of tickets sold on LH.com has increased year over year by an average of six percentage points, to 37%.
The Lufthansa Group is “working intensively on the development of alternative distribution channels,” such as direct connections to agencies and corporate clients.
According to The Beat, a travel newsletter, Lufthansa expects to announce a couple of implementations of its Farelogix-developed direct-connect solution early in the new year.