ASTA is warning travel agents that the $17.50 booking surcharge that Lufthansa Group will implement on Sept. 1 will be nonrefundable, even on fully refundable tickets.

“Prior to ticketing, the travel agent should disclose to the client that if he/she elects to refund the ticket, the [distribution cost charge] will not be refunded,” ASTA advised agents.

In an emailed response to a Travel Weekly inquiry, Lufthansa spokeswoman Claudia Lange said that manual intervention would only be required in cases in which agents are using software that can't read the fare filing notes.

The reminder comes as the travel industry readies for implementation of the groundbreaking distribution charge, which will apply to all GDS bookings for flights on Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines and Swiss International Air Lines. Lufthansa Group won't levy the charge on direct bookings.

ASTA also informed agents that they may need to manually intervene while processing refunds of Lufthansa tickets in order to make sure the distribution cost charge is not refunded, as well. Otherwise, ASTA said, it assumes agents will receive debit memos.

Lufthansa didn't immediately respond to a Travel Weekly inquiry Thursday about whether ASTA's assumption is correct.

While ASTA is issuing words of caution to agents, the Global Business Travel Association is taking its latest stand against the GDS booking surcharge. On Thursday, GBTA said that a poll of its membership shows that 50% of travel buyers for whom Lufthansa is a preferred carrier plan to decrease spending with the airline group once the surcharge takes effect. Additionally, according to GBTA, 51% of respondents said they probably won't or definitely won't use Lufthansa as a preferred carrier if it implements the surcharge.

Corporate and leisure travel agents in both the United States and Europe worry that the surcharge will upend the travel sales industry’s business and distribution models. The European Travel Agents' and Tour Operators' Association has filed a complaint with the European Commission alleging that the fee is an illegal, anti-competitive practice. The Business Travel Coalition in the U.S. made similar charges in a letter that it copied to the Justice Department and the European Commission on Aug. 13.

Lufthansa maintains that the charge is legal.


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