Travel agents asked to close doors in response to airline move

Posted: Friday, August 31, 2001

PETERSBURG (AP) -- Travel agents in Alaska and elsewhere were asked to close their doors for two hours Thursday in reaction to cuts in commissions paid by some major airlines.

The American Society of Travel Agents said the 60 percent cut paid by American, Northwest, United, Trans World, Delta and others is intended to drive agents out of business. David Berg, owner of Viking Travel, said he closed his doors at 9 a.m. on Thursday as part of the protest.

''The purpose of this action is to raise awareness of the airlines' attempt to deprive consumers of their preferred method of purchasing air transportation and their only source of neutral price and service options,'' Berg said in a press statement.

Alaska Airlines has not decided whether to cut commissions paid to travel agents, spokesman Jack Walsh said Thursday.

Commissions paid to travel agents on domestic trips costing more than $400 dropped from $50 to $20 and on one-way trips from $25 to $10, ASTA said.

That is on top of a 50 percent reduction in commissions made in the late 1990s, Berg said. Viking Travel relies on airline commissions for up to half of his company's income, he said.

Berg said his business may rely more heavily on Marine Highway reservations, package tours and inbound clients arranging trips for visitors coming to Alaska.

The cuts could mean up to $500 million in additional revenues for the airline industry which is already on track to lose $2 billion for the year because of deteriorating revenues, according to Merrill Lynch analysts.

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