United Airlines’ new credit card policy is angering agents. // © Luis Argerich
By July 20, United Airlines will no longer allow certain host travel agencies to use its merchant account when booking any United product. United is now advising agents to use their own merchant accounts when accepting credit cards for payment and settling with the airline in cash.Under this new policy, the cost of credit card purchases will shift to agencies. Many industry insiders believe United’s new policy is meant to push agents away from booking on traditional GDS systems, allowing United to bypass GDS fees.
United warned that erroneous use of United’s merchant account on or after July 20 will result in a debit memo of $75 per ticket sold. The new policy applies to agents who belong to an unspecified number of host travel agencies who were notified last month.
United’s announcement has been met with outcry from a number of travel agency organizations, among them ASTA and Ensemble Travel Group.
In a letter to David Myrick, United vice president of sales - Americas, ASTA president Chris Russo asked for an immediate withdrawal of the policy. “… This policy is both unjust and commercially unfeasible,” Russo wrote. “… Agents already bear the credit costs of charging their fee services. It is not reasonable to expect them to bear your costs too.”
“United Airlines’ action is an incendiary one,” said Jack E. Mannix, Ensemble president and CEO.
Mannix said that many Ensemble members are now considering booking with other air carriers.
“... This action penalizes the consumer for seeking out the benefits of the agency’s expertise,” he said.