ARC's recently announced decision to maintain its annual travel agency fee, $150 per location, and raise its requisition fees for paper ticket stock as interim measures comes as a slap in the face to retailers, many of whom already are struggling to maintain their fiscal equilibrium on the steep slope of declining base rate commissions.

Despite earnest proposals by ASTA and ARTA that the fees be eliminated as a way to lighten the agency community's burden, the airline-only ARC board chose not only to maintain the status quo for now but also to throw another brick on the load for good measure.

We suspect that ARC president David Collins' explanation that the increase in requisition fees, in particular, is somehow connected with the spectacular growth in electronic ticketing and reporting does not bode well for a significant break for the trade any time soon.

After all, electronic reporting already accounts for more than 50% of transactions and dollar volume, according to ARC, and, despite reservations by some agents, appears well on its way to all but universal acceptance by the trade.

Moreover, the recent adoption of a new requirement -- one that was opposed, again, by both ASTA and ARTA -- that most agencies accredited after Jan. 1 report sales electronically presupposes that servicing retailers with paper stock is likely to get more expensive for ARC, not less, as demand declines.

Collins says the ARC board has directed management to review the schedule of fees, with trade input, and come up with new, and we would hope, less burdensome charges.

But for most of us, unhappily, the experience is that fees -- like taxes -- are far more likely to go up than go away.

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