In the early 1990s, many publications switched from traditional
printing to desktop publishing. Desktop publishing brought a lot of
functions in house that had previously been performed by printers.
One result was that editors gained more control over their
manufacturing process; another was that publishing companies saved
a ton of money. The job of "printer" as we knew it virtually
You are asking: What has this got to do with me?
Delta's latest move on distribution costs -- a $1 surcharge per
fare component on each domestic ticket that is not booked through
its SkyLinks Web site -- is being perceived by some as another
attack on agents. In reality, a $2 or $4 or $6 price differential
is not going to send droves of travelers to the SkyLinks site, but
a clear line has been drawn in the sand.
Look at where that line is drawn. On one side is a distribution
avenue that costs the airline as close to nothing as it has ever
come. On the other is everything else, especially tickets that
incur the CRS fees that are seemingly caught in an endless upward
The transition to desktop publishing didn't happen because some
evil entity decided to kill all the printers. It happened because
somebody invented computers that could "do publishing" faster and
cheaper. Nor did the airlines invent the Internet.
We know that if technology is there, it will be used. It is
disingenuous to think that airlines can or will refrain from
encouraging a distribution method that is having an impact on
retailers of every stripe.
In the wake of the commission cuts and Delta's latest move, some
agents again urge turning to some branch of the government for
relief. That's not likely to stem the inexorable tide of
Does that make you obsolete? If you see yourself as a seller of
airline tickets, yes. But if your customers perceive that you are
selling something that they can't find on a Web site, you have a