Local News

Internet, Airlines Making Life Tough For Travel Agents

Posted March 26, 2002

— The Internet and now the airlines are making life harder for travel agents. Many travelers surf the Web for the best deals. Now airlines have stopped paying commissions to travel agents for their work. Agents are working around the new deal, and some travelers do not like the solution.

Airlines no longer pay travel agents commissions on the tickets they sell, so most agents now charge a fee for their services. Travel agent Bob Gani is charging a $30 fee for his services.

"If they've dealt with us before, they recognize the value and they grumble and are not happy about it, but it's not materially changing their behavior," he said.

Some travel web sites also charge a fee or refuse to put some airlines' information online. Travel agent Tony Maupin says zero commission frees him to serve his customer and not the airlines.

"We've had the airline kind of as a cloak around our neck now for the last 30 years ever since they're been paying for our services," he said.

Travel agents may have to tack on that additional fee, but travelers don't necessarily like it.

"When I bought these ticket, I had to pay $15 extra for a first-class ticket so I thought that was a little much," traveler Dr. Giles Mebane said.

Maupin said airlines will likely catch a lot of grief.

"I think the airlines are going to regret it greatly. There will be a big backlash from this not only from the agent community, certainly from the consumer and probably from Congress in the long run," he said.

Airline travelers could take another hit as RDU International increases landing fees. The airport is hiking those fees to make up for fees that were being paid by Midway Airlines which now offers limited flights. The hike in fees may be added to ticket costs by airlines.

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