German airline Lufthansa plans to impose a €16 point of sale (PoS) fee for bookings made through travel search engines, online travel agents (OTAs) and others who resell its airline tickets from September this year.
According to ScrapeSentry, IT security specialist to the airline sector, the surcharge promises to set a trend in the industry and how if it is implemented without the right technology in place the plan could fail.
“For many years now the OTAs have been reaping the rewards of the ancillary sales that come with airline bookings and so building their own brands and profits, whilst letting the airlines do all the work and bear the costs of marketing etc,” said Martin Zetterlund, ScrapeSentry’s founding partner.
“As ancillary sales grows more and more important for airlines, we would expect more airlines to follow this route of introducing a third party surcharge. The margins on selling seats alone are very low for most airlines so in order to compete with low cost carriers they will need to increase ancillary sales and this is, of course, hard if a large percentage of all tickets are sold on places other than the airline’s own web-site.
“We are in the business of detecting and blocking the scrapers, bots and people that break the terms and conditions of use of our clients’ websites and it’s our experience from working with leading airlines for over five years that the introduction of the fee will drive the OTAs to initiate screen scraping data instead.
“So for any PoS fee scheme to work it is imperative that proper mechanisms for stopping OTAs web scraping are also in place. If they aren’t, then OTAs will circumnavigate the system and never pay the fees but rather continue on reselling the tickets against the will of the airline.
“The legal route to stopping this problem has been tried and tested many times but without any success so the only way of achieving success is to technically block the scrapers at the website when they are trying to make the booking.”
However, a London summit on the industry’s introduction of the technology cautions that testing and acceptance are still at an early stage and firms should proceed with caution.
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