Q: In July 2021, you wrote a Legal Briefs column blasting the new Travelport GDS contract for travel agencies because of its unintelligible clauses, including some that had nothing to do with the travel business in the U.S. Since that time, has Travelport revised its standard agreement to make it more intelligible and U.S.-friendly? More importantly, given the importance of GDS-incentive revenue to our agency, are there any new clauses that could potentially affect the business terms that we negotiate?
A: Travelport has "updated" its standard contract by adding a couple thousand words to a contract that was already four times as long as the previous version. The most recent version I have seen has 19,901 words when you include the linked terms and conditions.
All the strange language about VAT, BSP, IATA Codes and the like is still there. More importantly, my analysis shows that the contract is exceptionally one-sided. For example:
- Travelport has the right to increase any prices with no limits. Under previous contracts, price increases were limited to 10% per year.
- Travelport may add fees for items not currently charged for, such as seat assignments. Under previous contracts, Travelport could add fees only if it introduced new "optional services" and you used them.
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- Travelport can do away with segment incentives for any segments by simply adding the kind of segments to its so-called Segment List, which -- in true double-speak -- is the list of segments that don't qualify for incentives. Once a segment is added to the Segment List, Travelport can also stop counting it toward annual productivity quotas.
- One part of the Segment List is the "Ineligibles" list. According to the contract, "'Ineligible' means a reservation generated by Subscriber as may be designated by Travelport (in its sole discretion) from time to time as being ineligible under this Agreement." How's that for one-sidedness?
- Travelport can remove any airline's segments from the definition of "Full Service Level" and thereby exclude them from incentives. The trouble is that, unlike the old contract, the definition of the quoted term is so narrow that anything can fall outside it: "Full Service Level excludes any airline with limited functionality (including, but not limited to, the inability to interline, codeshare or issue paper or electronic tickets)." So if an airline does not issue paper tickets, its segments may not be at the Full Service Level.
- Travelport will pay no incentives for NDC bookings, which in the new contract are ironically called "NDC Limited Reservations," even though the idea of NDC is that it offers more content than non-NDC bookings.
- Travelport has the right to declare you in default if you don't meet the segment goal or actively use the system.
You won't find most of these clauses in the document that Travelport sends you, as they are contained only on a webpage that is referred to by a link in the contract. So the average reader would tend to ignore the linked page, and Travelport can change its content at any time.