You win one, you lose one.
Although it might not add up to a lot of bucks, at least not for
now, assurances by the fledgling National Airlines that it will
continue to pay travel agents 10% commission can only come as good
news to beleaguered retailers.
Implicit in the compensation arrangement is the acknowledgement
by the carrier, which serves four major U.S. cities from its Las
Vegas base, that it wants -- make that needs -- trade bookings to
According to Michael Conway, National's chairman and chief
executive officer, his airline has "turned the clock back" on air
travel when it comes to such niceties as in-flight meal service,
leg room, carry-on space and, importantly, employee attitude.
It might be added that by maintaining a straight 10% pay rate
National also has revisited a gentler time when airlines
compensated agents fairly for the value of their contributions.
Tempering the good news from National is the lugubrious
announcement from Alaska Airlines that it has succumbed to
competitive pressures and will cap domestic and transborder
commissions at $25 one way and $50 roundtrip, and international pay
at $50 and $100. The limits go into effect Sept. 7.
Four years after the imposition of industrywide domestic pay
caps and a year-and-a-half after international caps, Alaska said it
experienced no significant shift in market share as a result of its
agent-friendly commission policy.
So, while Alaska can no longer afford to go it alone, National,
in the words of its head man, is "looking for ways to distinguish
[itself] from the others. Paying a percentage commission is one way
of doing that."
Conway's right. Travel agents should have no problem spotting
National Airlines in a crowd at the airport. They're the ones not