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April 10, 2018

Air Travel: TMCs Sign Deals to Avoid GDS Fees

Two big corporate travel management companies signed deals to avoid Air France - KLM's new GDS fee this week in air travel news affecting the meetings and events industry. 

Expedia Group, which includes the Egencia corporate travel management company, as well as OTAs like Expedia and Hotels.com, signed a deal that will allow its leisure and corporate customers in all markets in Europe (including the UK and Switzerland) to avoid the new surcharge, which affects Air France, KLM and Hop! flights. Expedia Group and Air France – KLM have also committed to collaborate on the integration of new distribution capabilities (NDC).

American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) signed a similar deal this week enabling GBT customers to bypass the fee. The agreement is subject to the GDSs entering private channel arrangements with Air France KLM. Of the three main GDSs, two have reached agreements with Air France - KLM, while the other remains in active dialogue, GBT said.

The new €11 surcharge on GDS bookings went into effect April 1, making it the latest airline group to charge a similar fee. Lufthansa Group implemented the first such fee on flights by Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines and Swiss International Air Lines, followed by IAG, which owns British Airways and Iberia.

Air New Zealand's New Chatbot

In technology news, this week Air New Zealand brought its new “chatbot” service to customers in the United States and Canada. The chatbot, named “Oscar,” was first piloted in the New Zealand and Australia markets last year to assist customers with frequently asked questions. In addition to assisting travelers Oscar can sing songs and tell jokes. Oscar’s full capabilities are available on the carrier’s website as well as on the Air New Zealand mobile app. 

More Flights to Cuba

In flight news, this week United Airlines and Mesa Airlines received tentative approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation to begin offering daily nonstop service between Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport and Havana's José Marti International Airport in Cuba. Subject to final approval, United will expand its existing Saturday-only service, which was just launched in December of 2016, to daily service. 

Alaska Airlines' New Flights to JFK

In domestic travel news, this week Alaska Airlines announced plans to add new nonstop service between New York - JFK and San Jose, California, as well as a third daily flight from its Seattle hub to JFK. The San Jose - JFK flights begin July 6. The third flight from Seattle, which will take place in the early morning, will provide easier connections to Europe, the airline said. 

Three Mexico Airports Debut New Digital Biometric Kiosks

Finally, in airport news this week, the first digital biometric kiosks for automatic passenger registration were launched at three major airports around Mexico, including Cancún International Airport. Flora Patricia Martínez, representative of the Ministry of the Interior, said the kiosks were also launched at Mexico City International Airport and Los Cabos International Airport.

The new electronic self-serve systems use biometrics rather than visas to enter and leave the country. Travelers who opt for the new self-serve kiosk can have their review complete within two and a half minutes, according to system officials.

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