The National Business Travel Association's vote to admit agents builds a bridge that should enhance agents' and managers' relationships with one another.

It allows retailers to join, but without voting rights, preserving the integrity of the corporate travel managers' group.

It will grant agents partnership status and greater access to the benefit of networking with corporations and their representatives.

It will offer a forum for greater dialogue between agents and corporate managers. We think that's all to the good.

It also casts further into the background a lingering distrust of agents from NBTA's old guard, who wanted to keep the organization purely corporate.

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The association previously had voted on the issue three times and last year approved by a majority agents' admittance, but the margin was not large enough to satisfy the group's two-thirds requirement for a bylaws change.

Yet many of its chapters had opened their doors to agents as full members, and many agents regularly attended the association's annual meeting.

Thanks to lobbying by Judie Shyman, president of NBTA and its board, who argued, for one, that the world is full of partnerships and alliances, the association has put the issue behind it.

The NBTA's corporate members wear a great many hats and hold a hodgepodge of titles ranging from travel to procurement and transportation activities. Arguably, they share more differences with one another than with agents.

They are faced with huge decisions, including whether to adopt corporate self-booking products. The irony of the vote is that many agents could wind up with a smaller role in the corporate world if these products should catch on.

Correction: In the July 10 issue, this page incorrectly quoted the Air Transport Association as estimating that a proposal to collect passenger manifest data for domestic flights would cost $7.2 million annually. The association's figure was a typical start-up cost for collecting the data by one major airline only.

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