Shift in card costs not in the plans of Continental, Southwest

By Nadine Godwin

SAN DIEGO — Continental and Southwest are not planning to foist their credit card fees onto distributors or consumers, their CEOs told delegates to the National Business Travel Association convention here on Tuesday.

"If something is used by more than 20% of our customers, we want that in the base fare," said Continental CEO Larry Kellner.

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said it makes sense to charge extra for certain items, such as onboard WiFi, which requires a considerable investment by the airline. However, he said Southwest had no plans to shift credit card costs.

The airline CEOs made their remarks in response to a question during a panel discussion at the NBTA conference. The matter came up because of United’s intention to cut off 28 travel agencies from access to its credit card merchant accounts in September.

In one-on-one interviews with Travel Weekly, GDS leaders commented on United's move.

Travelport CEO Gordon Wilson doesn’t think United’s plan will "stick." He said there is a "big opportunity in selling the unbundled product," and that United might not want the add-ons settled through ARC (once that is possible).

Kay Urban, CEO of Amadeus North America, said United’s move is "perplexing" because cutting off 28 small travel agencies does not appear to achieve the goal of saving on credit card fees.

Sabre is concerned about the implications of the move for agencies and consumers, said CEO Sam Gilliland. "We're paying close attention," he said.

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