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Mar 16th 2011 1:47PM Most travel agents charge transaction fees, these days in an average range of $35-$50 for every transaction. If you book online through an airline website there are no booking or ticketing fees. If you have questions after you click and book airlines have toll free reservations numbers you can call for help. If there are flight cancellations due to bad weather or other major incidents, the airlines re-book on the next available flights, on other airlines when necessary. If its' their fault, in some cases they bus people or pay for rental cars or trains depending on location. All done without a transaction fee. If you buy a cheaper ticket with change restrictions you will probably pay an airline change fee, but if a travel agent processes the change and collects the airline fee, they may also charge a transaction fee, that is how they earn their money. It is hard to see how using a travel agent could possibly cost the same as buying your ticket online. Also most people who travel a lot know by now that membership in an airline frequent flyer program and continued loyalty leads to status that eliminates baggage charges and possibly other fees. Companies with big travel volume use major travel agencies who can offer discounted air and hotel rates simply because of their booking volume. These large agencies can sometimes help with complimentary upgrades but this is usually connected to mileage program status, or executive level in a company with a big airline travel spend. A lot of big companies have agreements with airlines based on high travel spend, that includes some of these benefits and the travel agent simply processes the transaction. Travel agent transaction fees came about when airlines stopped paying commission to a large number of agencies. Although it may have been a difficult transition for smaller agencies, transaction fees can result in higher earnings than airline commissions did. Its' just that now the customer pays for the work the agent does on their behalf, not the airline, which seems to make more sense. If you have an extensive or complicated itinerary, it is probably better to use an agency if you can't handle it yourself, but you should be aware agency transaction fees may apply. Ask up front is the best advice that way you won't get a nasty surprise when you are charged!
Jan 21st 2011 2:02AM Only short sighted travel agencies will resist the new technology. It will make everything more transparent not less. Distribution costs have been excessive and contributed to bankruptcy for legacy carriers in the past. The airlines should be able to sell their seats, products and services any way they choose and its time the intermediaries stopped obstructing positive new technology at the expense of travelers and self interest. Delta has already made some changes and others will soon follow as contracts come up for renewal, just as they did two a couple of years ago, when contracts were up for negotiation. Ultimately the GDS climbed down off their high horse and settled more realistically, but greed and excessive demands has led to higher prices for passengers, not lower and major disputes with airlines. The airlines are right about this and travelers already know the lowest fares are available on the airline website. Companies have nothing to fear for their corporate travel, they will benefit too from the reduction of costs for all the middle men.