Lufthansa's decision 'will ruin Israeli travel industry'

Lufthansa announced that they planned to implement a European trend of canceling base commission fees for travel agents.

Lufthansa's decision to cancel travel agents' commissions will ruin the Israeli travel industry, the director-general of the Israel Tourism and Travel Agents Association said Tuesday. In a letter to Transportation Ministry Director-General Gideon Siterman, ITTAA director-general Yossi Fatael urged, "Don't accept Lufthansa's request to extend the number of its flights to Israel. Lufthansa's new policy to cancel the agents' commission will ruin the Israeli travel industry." Lufthansa and Swiss International Air Lines announced late last year that they planned to implement a European trend of canceling base commission fees for travel agents, which comprise about 7 percent of a plane ticket's cost, an announcement that troubled Israel's travel agents. On Tuesday, it was published that Fatael appealed to Siterman not to accept the German carrier's requests, and requested that Siterman meet with representatives of the ITTAA. "Implementing Lufthansa's policy will cause dozens of travel agencies across the country to shut down, many workers to lose their source of income, and plane ticket prices to go up," Fatael wrote. Fatael explained that Lufthansa controls and holds shares of other airlines, such as Swiss International Air Lines, Austrian Airlines and bmi, in addition to being the leader of the Star Alliance, the oldest and largest airline alliance in the world. As a result, Fatael wrote, the company operated aggressively in Israeli market. "We call on the Transportation Ministry not to respond to Lufthansa's request to extend the number of flights it operates to and from Israel due to its attempt to force a policy that no doubt will change the structure of the Israeli travel market," Fatael wrote. Lufthansa spokesman Tal Muscal said in response: "The purpose of the negotiations between the two civil aviation authorities is to expand the volume of the flights between Israel and Germany and vice versa, an agreement that will work for the benefit of the Israeli consumers and the growing number of tourists wishing to visit Israel. "Israel Tourism and Travel Agents Association's intention to sabotage... an aviation agreement is driven by narrow considerations and is not based on wider considerations, in line with the 'Open Skies' policy of enhancing tourism to Israel, and the Association's leadership knows this very well. Muscal said that Lufthansa's move to increase the number and frequency of flights between Israel and Germany came in response to market needs, and warned that futher delay in the negotiations would disrupt the travel plans of both Israelis and tourists. The Transportation Ministry said it would respond to Fatael's letter as soon as the ministry director-general's office received it. Meanwhile, last Wednesday, another tourism dispute erupted between Israel and Germany, who have been deadlocked for months in their attempts to reach a new civil aviation agreement. The discussions have failed because of Germany's refusal to approve improved time slots for El Al in Frankfurt.