Success With Service Fees, Part 1: What to Charge

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NEW YORK -- So you've decided to charge service fees. Now two equally important questions you need to ask are: what price and for what services? To help you get a ball-park idea, we asked some of those who already charge fees and those who plan to.

Most all agencies contacted charge a fee for airline tickets ($5 to $15) including refunds, exchanges and coupons. On the high end are fees for foreign independent traveler arrangements ($50 to $75), by the hour or on a flat rate. Others charge a "plan-to-go" or nonrefundable deposit for doing FITs ($50 to $100), and some charge cancellation fees for about the same price. Still others charge for the small things that add up: car or hotel reservations, phone calls, faxes and overnight deliveries ($1 to $15). And some agencies have a sliding scale depending on the price of the purchase and the customer's attitude.

The following are 21 different agencies' prices and fee structures:

Corniche Travel, Los Angeles: $20 flat fee per transaction, "unless it's a corporate account of significant size," said Randy Brown, executive vice president.

Travel Advisors of Marin, Mill Valley, Calif.: $10 to process any airline ticket; $50 for a cruise cancellation after deposit; up to $50 an hour for foreign independent travel arrangements. "We just started with fees. We charged about 300 in one week and one customer declined," said owner Randi Sarti. "I'm shocked. I was expecting a 5% fallout."

Post Haste Travel, Hollywood, Fla.: $5 minimum per airline ticket, $10 if it's under $100; $15 for refunds, exchanges, voids and reconfirming reservations; $15 to $100 depending on time spent for all noncommissionable work; $15 for hotel bookings that are not commissionable; $100 nonrefundable "plan-to-go fee" or deposit on FITs plus a $50 flat fee; $25 cancellation fee for cruises with deposit; $10 for dinner and theater reservations per booking; $20 visa processing; $10 international fax; $10 for same-day deliveries, $5 next-day deliveries; $3 for overnight deliveries.

TMA, Seattle: 2% above the gross airline ticket price with a $5 minimum; $10 for air coupons.

Vintage Travel, Napa, Calif.: $5 per airline ticket; $10 for exchanges, reissues, refunds or handwritten tickets; $15 for air coupons; $50 nonrefundable deposit on FITs; $15 for international faxing; $10 for hotel booking by itself; $50 cancellation fee for tours or cruises after final payment.

Plan-It Cruise & Travel, Lynwood, Wash.: $10 for airline tickets; $5 per person on cruises and tours with a maximum of $20 per invoice; $10 for airline ticket changes, cancellations or refunds. "There have been a few clients who departed, but I can count them on one hand," said Lloyd West, vice president.

HNL Travel, Honolulu: "Nothing is set in stone, it's all value based," said Wendy Goodenow, manager and partner. "If we're reissuing you a ticket and saving you $200, the service fee would be $25, but if we saved you just $50 it would be less."

Distinctive Travel, North Miami Beach, Fla.: $6 per airline ticket; $10 for coupons and exchanges.

Olympus Travel, Tacoma, Wash.: $10 for all airline tickets under $500; $10 for tour packages under $500; $10 for airline ticket exchanges and refunds; $15 for coupons; $25 for free airline tickets; $20 for past document search; $10 for car and hotel reservations that require a phone call.

Strong Travel Services, Dallas: $75 per hour for FIT planning with a three hour minimum; $7.50 per fax or phone call; $10 for airline tickets; $10 for foreign currency draft for hotel payment; $10 cancellation fee for a reservation with a deposit; $10 for dinner or theater reservation per booking and $15 for overnight deliveries above cost of delivery.

The Travel Bug, Boerne, Texas: $10 per airline ticket; $1 for overnight deliveries; $15 for airline ticket exchanges and coupons; $25 for hotel and car reservations without air.

Lake Union Travel, Seattle: $10 for every transaction including voids and exchanges.

Robert Henri Travel, San Francisco: $15 for any airline ticket under $300; $75 per person charge on FITs; $15 for hotels or cars without air; $25 for meeting program planning; $10 for accounting research; $15 for exchanges; $10 for refunds; $15 for lost or stolen ticket applications.

Giselle's Travel, Sacramento, Calif.: $15 for airline ticket exchanges and coupons; $10 for stand alone hotel or car bookings; $10 for a handwritten airline ticket; $50 for cancellations; $50 an hour for FIT planning.

Prestige Travel American Express, Las Vegas: $10 on airline tickets; $10 for stand alone car or hotel bookings; $100 deposit on FITs.

AST Ambassador Travel, Seattle: $10 per airline ticket; $25 for a handwritten ticket to reduce a fare and reissue; $10 for car and hotel bookings.

Assured Travel Services, San Francisco: $10 per airline ticket, $25 on hotels.

Travel Plus, Danbury, Conn.: $10 to $15 for airline ticket coupons. "We would like to put in more fees, but we would find it very difficult if the other agency in town doesn't charge fees," said partner Marci Smolowitz.

Innovative Tours, San Francisco: $25 on international airline tickets. "Sometimes we charge fees, sometimes we don't," said manager Lila Fernandez.

Ozark World Travel, Springfield, Mo.: $10 for every airline ticket up to $500 at the agent's discretion with a $30 maximum for clients traveling together; $25 for frequent flier tickets; $5 for refunds; $10 for hotel and car reservations without air; $25 for international hotel or car reservations not booked in the CRS; $10 for tour packages under $500; $25 cancellation fee after deposit on tours and cruises; $15 for overnight ticket delivery.

Hereford Travel Center, Hereford, Texas : $10 for airline tickets, refunds and exchanges; $25 cancellation on tours and cruises; $20 for writing a letter to get a refund on non-refundable tickets.

This report was adapted from TravelAge magazine.

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