n the face of it, American's decision to charge 10 bucks for a paper ticket is not such a bad thing -- if the carrier plays by its own rules.

American said the fee won't apply if the ticket is issued by a travel agency, if the itinerary doesn't qualify for an e-ticket, if the traveler pays full fare or has Executive Platinum status, or if "a significant operational issue or job action" augers against e-ticketing.

Fair enough. Alaska Airlines adopted a similar policy more than two years ago, and the economic rationale at least makes some sense. Moreover, AA's conditions seem designed to avoid unnecessary passenger and agent ill will.

In fact, American notes that the new policy might even drive customers into travel agencies. When's the last time an airline took any pride in doing that?

A better mousetrap?

Three big European hotel companies, Hilton Group, Accor and Forte, are launching a new cooperative Web site, called Andbook. Maybe this is a trend: A group of competitors get together to improve their

Internet distribution and save a few bucks in the process. But is that what's happening?

According to Andbook, the site will use Amadeus. Its revenue source will be commissions. It soon will add airline and car rental bookings. Oh, one more thing: The three owners will have the benefit of display bias, because their hotels will be on the first screen.

That's it folks. Andbook isn't promising new technology to "harness the power of the Internet." It isn't even promising to bypass those pesky CRS companies. The owners apparently just want to put up a biased hotel Web site and sit back and collect their commissions.

Sounds like they want to be bad travel agents.

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