At-home groups criticize United's cutoff of merchant accounts

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*logoHost agencies and other groups that have independent or affiliated retailer members are weighing in on United's decision to cut off some agencies from using the airline's merchant accounts for credit card bookings.

Host agency Nexion, whose parent is Sabre Holdings, said in a statement: "Given our understanding that Sabre subscribers are not exempt from United Airlines' new merchant policy, Sabre has notified United that such policy violates United's distribution agreement with Sabre and that we will vigorously protect our interests."

The statement also said that Sabre "shares the views expressed by industry trade groups such as ASTA and the Business Travel Coalition that this policy is bad for travel agencies, bad for corporate travel programs and bad for consumers."

Jim Mazza, COO of Travelsavers, said the organization has been "inundated with calls from our licensees who are up in arms about United's new merchant policy."

"Many travel agents have told us that United's nearsighted actions of charging them for the privilege of selling their product will force them to look at the alternatives and make booking decisions that are best for their agency and clientele," said Mazza.

He said that the move by United is "a masked fare increase and a sign of the economic pressures the airline is under."

But, he added, "that in no way justifies shifting the entire burden of credit card costs to travel agents and ultimately to the traveling public. Neither should be forced to take on United's cost of doing business. We seriously hope that United will understand the negative situation they're creating and rethink their position. This predatory arrangement is opening a Pandora's box and can cause irreparable damage to both the travel industry and United Airlines."

Vacation.com President Steve Tracas said the carrier's decision would have "negative implications for consumers, all industry segments and United itself."

Tracas added, "Not only is United trying to push credit card costs off to travel agents and ultimately to consumers, but it is forcing agents to make costly adjustments to processes for which there are no practical workarounds."

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