ATLANTA — Travelport's Agility program was changed in the Americas, but not as much as many travel agencies and travel agency groups initially believed, a company executive said here.
Travelport waived the Agility fees for many North American agencies, but not systematically.
Kurt Ekert, Travelport's chief commercial officer, said during meetings in Atlanta (home to Travelport's U.S. headquarters) that the company made "limited changes" to the program based on feedback it had received last month. The primary change was that the new products were taken out of Agility, and are being sold separately.
But when ASTA and many trade publications reported that Travelport had waived its charges for the Agility program, they were incorrect, Travelport said. The agencies that were told they would not be charged for Agility until the end of their current contracts were given that information on an individual basis.
"We are charging for it," he said. "We have commercial conversations with every customer, and we are trying to make sure we come to agreements that work for us and the customers. That's true of anything we do."
On Jan. 4, ASTA issued a statement saying: "On Dec. 30, 2011, ASTA learned that Travelport had rescinded its previously announced plan to impose fees on Travelport subscribers for a program called Agility that included features already contracted for by subscribers with different fee structures than Agility. This is welcome news."
ASTA added that it was prepared to take legal action against Travelport, but that "it appears to be unnecessary as the rescission action respects agents' rights in their existing contracts while giving them the opportunity, if interested, to get potential added value from new features contained in Agility."
Ekert said that ASTA was in fact wrong in its characterization of the fees for the program being rescinded.
"We got feedback from customers and changed what's in and out of the bundle," Ekert said. "And we're dealing with customers on an individual basis about what it means for them commercially. But no, we did not make any programmatic change."
Ekert said that from the beginning, Travelport never discussed the price of Agility and the commercial specifics between the company and its travel agency customers.
"And we're not going to do that today," he added.
The bottom line, Ekert said, is "we are charging for Agility as a bundle."
When asked if that bundle includes products that were previously free, Ekert said, "There are products that were previously free in the bundle. ... I'm not going to speak about any individual customers. We never do that."
Ekert joined many Travelport executives in Atlanta in saying the company had made mistakes in the way that it rolled out the Agility program in the Americas, where the conversation became about its fees rather than its content.
"I think what's important to us and to our customer is getting missed," Ekert said. "And that is creating a platform for the integration of new content and more efficient tools, and largely about technology and how we extend that technology.
"Ultimately, we believe this comes down to the fact that we have to prove the value of what we are providing to our customers. If we do those things, commercial conversations should become less of a prime issue."
As to why Travelport did not immediately respond to incorrect information, Ekert said the company was solely focused on the the conversations it was having with customers.
"We want to get customers on the latest, greatest and best offerings in he marketplace, and shame on us if we don't help them get there," he said.
Follow Johanna Jainchill on Twitter @jjainchilltw.