The bully is on the run

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John DaltonThe bully decided to intimidate the kids in the playground just as bullies have been doing as long as one can remember. Like all bullies, this one decided to pick on a group that could not defend itself. As we all know, its a trait of bullies to avoid anyone they think will fight back.

As usual, in the travel industry, the bully was a major airline. The neighborhood, of course, was the same one where all the bully airlines have found easy pickings. So as his peers have done for decades, this particular bully headed for the travel agency playground.

It was a day in late August when the bully said, Every travel agency has to pay me an agency segment fee of $3.75 for one-way itineraries you book in your GDS and $7.50 for roundtrips. This is not negotiable. You have no say in this matter. Just shut up and pay. Im going to bill all of you monthly, and you send the money to my buddy, ARC. Ill even give you a break. I wont charge you until Sept. 1. 

But this time the agency community decided to draw a line in the sand. Immediately, the mega-agency groups swung into action. Many sent e-mails to their members. Others arranged conference calls with groups of agencies to plot strategies for retaliation. There was no way they were going to back down.

And what the bully did not know was the agencies had a few new friends, including the GDSs. Once, the GDSs and the airlines belonged to the same gang, but the bullies decided the GDSs were no longer needed and told them to go their own way. Now, agencies and the GDSs joined forces to fight off the bully.

The bully took the blows and grinned. It was just a matter of time until his trump card would be played and then the agencies and business travelers would have no choice but to pay his demands: Soon, he thought, the other bullies would match his booking fee to reduce their costs.

But that was not to be. Another airline announced it was not going to charge GDSs agency booking fees, and the bully had had enough. Confused, battered, bloodied, humiliated and feeling betrayed by his erstwhile accomplices, the bully said, OK, you dont have to pay me. Ill let you go this time. And then he ran home to tend to his wounds.

Now, the airline bullies will have to ward off attacks by their unions, passengers, retirees, low-cost airlines and their creditors. They also know the government is tired of bailing them out. Maybe they will think twice before they pick on the travel agency community again.

John Dalton is an industry consultant, trainer and speaker. He can be contacted at (919) 557-3844 or by e-mail at [email protected].

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