Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. will discontinue paying 5% commission on air transportation that is booked through its three U.S. cruise brands, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and Azamara Cruises, effective Nov. 1.

RCCL sent a note to agents via e-mail Friday morning explaining its new policy, less than two weeks after Carnival Corp. made the same decision. Many industry insiders had expected RCCL and possibly Norwegian Cruise Line to make a similar move. NCL, so far, had no comment on air commission cuts.

Just as Carnival did, RCCL made the move across its three main cruise brands, saying it had taken the action "to enable our brands to remain competitive within the cruise industry, regarding air packages being offered to your clients."

Carnival also told agents that it was eliminating the commission in order to sell air fares competitively, and that by adding the cost of commission onto its air fares, it could not be competitive because airlines don't pay commission.

RCCL said the new policy would not affect its air-inclusive packages, in which the air fare is embedded in the price of a packaged cruise or tour.

In response to RCCL's decision, William Maloney, executive vice president and COO of ASTA, said in a strongly worded statement that agents would gravitate towards cruise lines that continue to offer commissionable air.

"Cruise lines who still offer competitive, commissionable air will see an increase in market share," he stated. "The cruise lines must reexamine these situations. Not all sailings are from Florida or domestic drive-to ports."

Maloney explained that its agent members might not purchase the cruise lines' air fare much with domestic bookings, but that agents purchase foreign air fares via the cruise lines more often.

"With international cruising becoming increasingly popular and lucrative to cruise lines, complex international air fares are neither easily nor readily available," he stated.

To contact reporter Johanna Jainchill, send e-mail to [email protected].

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