BWIA chair calls for 'regional integration'

FREEPORT, Bahamas -- Airline strategies and partnerships dominated a session at CTC-25 entitled "View from the Cockpit; View from the Seats," moderated by Conrad Aleong, chairman of BWIA.

Although Aleong did not mention the dire financial straits facing his carrier, he called for "regional carrier integration."

In a meeting Aleong has called for Nov. 11, he and other regional carriers will meet to implement specific cost-cutting measures, such as shared-lease aircraft.

Jacquelyn Wolfer, president of International Tours and Cruises in New York and an agent's advocate, said that "agents have been as needed and as respected as they are today. Did airlines really think it was worth cutting the commissions to those who direct [customers] to them?"

Wolfer said that the main concerns of agents are: zero commissions; having access to the best available fares; "fire sale" air prices on booking sites, such as Priceline.com; ethnic agencies getting lower rates at the expense of other travel agents.

Both Campbell Rudder, Air Jamaica's regional director of sales, northeast, and Marc Rosenberg, Air Canada's vice president of consumer revenue opportunity, said that agents account for more than 60% of their revenues.

Rudder told agents that "you will never disappear. Continue to take specialist courses; charge service fees because you are professionals providing a valuable service."

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