The sounds of silence from other carriers in the first few days
following United's abrupt decision to cap international commissions
undoubtedly failed to befuddle even the most wide-eyed travel
agents this time round.
Fool me once, the saying goes, shame on you. Fool me twice ...
well, you know the rest.
As a result, it came as no surprise last week when Delta,
American and Canadian Airlines, broke the ominous quiet and joined
forces with the latest capping crusade, in some cases effectively
cutting the real commission rate from 8% to as low as 2% and less
on big-ticket international fares.
Is there anyone in the travel agency community who does not
expect that other major carriers are counting the days -- if not
the hours and minutes -- before they announce that they, too, have
joined their comrades in arms in divvying up this newfound
Many retailers have been preparing for this unfortunate
contingency for some time -- joining consortia, juggling their
leisure-business mix, cutting overhead, charging service fees --
and for them, the immediate future appears plausibly bright,
despite repeated assaults on their earning power.
But for others, we are afraid, innovative strategies designed to
help travel agents prosper in this brave new world of diminishing
commissions probably appear unavailing and unrealistic, and it is
these people who, under duress, are likely to turn to harebrained
schemes and half-baked concepts to bail them out in troubled
Undoubtedly, you have heard the refrain of late, and it is
growing more insistent all the time: Buy an airline, strike an
airline, boycott an airline. Next thing you know, the singers of
these siren songs will be lining up retailers to impeach an
Our advice: Turn a deaf ear and get real.