Saturday, October 09, 1999

Double whammy hits air passengers


Fares increase; travel agents could raise fees

BY AMY HIGGINS
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Fly out of Greater Cincinnati and chances are that you'll pay more — both to the airline and the travel agent — thanks to separate actions taken Friday by major airlines.

        Delta Air Lines increased excursion fares — those requiring advance purchase — by up to $20 per round trip. Cincinnati's dominant carrier, which controls more than 90 percent of the 185,000 flights out of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, matched the increase posted by Continental Airlines.

        Separately, American Airlines announced Friday it will join United Airlines in cutting commissions for travel agents from 8 percent to 5 percent of the ticket price (capped at $50 round-trip).

        Delta had no comment on whether it would follow.

        But a Forest Park travel agent said that he expects Delta will join its competitors in an effort to keep costs low. Don Freeland, owner of The Travel Store, said that the lowered commission will force travel agents to increase their fees to make up the shortfall.

        Tom Parsons, editor of Bestfares.com, said a commission cut and fare increase would amount to double-dipping by airlines.

        “Travel agents will start charging a processing fee because they can't survive on 5 percent. The fare increase is like a double whammy for air travelers,” Mr. Parsons said.

        The ticket increases posted late Thursday by Houston-based Continental and matched Friday by Delta range generally from 3 percent to 7 percent for a round-trip ticket requiring seven, 14- or 21-day advance purchase. The increases don't apply to top-dollar business fares.

        A Delta spokesman said the Atlanta-based carrier raised its fares “to remain competitive” with Continental.

        The Associated Press contributed to this report.

       



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