Rude awakening

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The reduced commission -- often $10 maximum per booking -- many airlines pay to Internet-based travel agencies, compared with the generous pay issued to traditional agencies, is unfair and detrimental to the growth of a valuable new distribution channel. So complained a number of on-line travel services during a forum at the PhoCusWright Live '98 conference in Phoenix. Most notably, Rich Barton from Microsoft Expedia charged that airlines "are squeezing the agencies. You know we can't do it on $10. Enough is enough." Hear that low rumbling sound? That's the sound of thousands of traditional agents across the U.S. chanting, "Welcome to the block, new kid."

Southwest is rumored to be eyeing the New York metropolitan market. Hear that distant rattling sound? That's the sound of major carriers with a presence at Newark, LaGuardia or Kennedy quaking in their boots.

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