Virgin Blue Airlines to offer net fares to agents

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BRISBANE -- Virgin Blue Airlines signed a deal with Sabre to provide travel agents with "Y" class net fares starting in late April.

The carrier, which flies to 11 cities within Australia, also hopes to start flying from Australia to New Zealand by the end of the year, according to David Huttner, head of commercial operations for the airline.

The deal with Sabre will enable U.S. agents to sell tickets at retail prices, but agents will have to charge a service fee to make any money off the ticket, said Huttner.

"Agents already are using our Web booking engine and earning a 6% commission with no caps, but we know a lot of agents would rather book our flights in the CRS than the Web," said Huttner. "We want to make it as easy for them as possible.

"We want to start focusing on the North American market, and that is one of the key reasons we signed the deal with Sabre," added Huttner.

Huttner said the airline has only about 20 to 30 U.S. agents who are "major bookers ... the Aussie-specialist type of agents" who are using the airline's agent-only Web site to book flights.

Huttner also said the airline is open to negotiations with "major tour operators" that want private net fares lower than the retail fares displayed in the Sabre system.

The airline also recently announced it is now offering connecting flights with through fares between the 11 cities it serves.

Virgin Blue serves Brisbane, Adelaide, Cairns, Canberra, Darwin, Mackay, Melbourne, Mount Isa, Sydney, Townsville and Launceston.

The Virgin Blue travel agent booking engine can be found at www.virginblue.com.au.

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