NEW YORK -- Some agents think American's EveryFare program puts new
writing on the wall.
Charlotte Weller, owner and president of Carlson Wagonlit
Travel/Future Travel in Houston, is going to study American's
EveryFare plan "inside and out," not because she is looking to sign
on but because "we know all the airlines will do this."
She was not ready to pass judgment because EveryFare "affects so
many things; it affects our relationship with customers and with
the res systems."
Thomas Marsh, president of North Coast Travel in Erie, Pa., who
called the American plan "intriguing," said he will be looking at
the plan more closely because he, too, expects the other lines --
"the lemmings" -- to follow.
However, he said, if his $6 million agency ever had to pay an
airline's GDS fees, he would have to take the cost to customers,
which could make his fees prohibitive in his market.
Eric Ardolino, president of A&S Travel Center in
Wallingford, Conn., and ASTA secretary, said he "needed to know
more," but he could not see why any agency would buy into the
Dick Knodt, president of Vacation.com, said agents book for
clients at AA.com and elsewhere "all the time," and his members --
while quite interested in the subject -- don't necessarily feel the
American EveryFare plan has much to offer them.
The move, he said, takes direct aim at the GDSs (which include
Vacation.com owner Amadeus) and is designed for corporate agencies
"at the outset." But in time, he said, this is something "we'll all
have to address."
As for the specifics of the plan, ASTA said it was analyzing the
13-page EveryFare contract and warned members that it "contains
some extraordinary provisions that all agents must fully understand
before considering signing."
Travel attorney Mark Pestronk said it is "absurd" to think
agents who pay little or nothing for the res systems would go for
He noted that American offers nothing shorter than a five-year
contract, which he termed a "huge risk." The agency has to hope the
single benefit -- unique access to Web-only fares -- does not
disappear before Dec. 31, 2007. Those rates could be outlawed, he
And the agency has to count on getting a better deal from its
GDS, but Pestronk said it's unlikely that GDS vendors would be
motivated to offset an agency's obligation to pay a carrier's
In any event, Pestronk noted that agents can get Web fares
outside the GDSs. "Yes, that is a pain, but not a big pain," he
Bonnie Gutner, owner of Travel Inc. in Kailua, Hawaii, said she
was "speechless," noting that "this is the only situation in any
business where the agent pays to sell [the principle's] product.
That is what it is coming to." And if this plan falls flat, she
said, the carriers will "do something else."
"If we are willing to sell the carrier's product, we should have
access to it and not have to pay its bills."
She added that any agency would have to be "mad" to sign a
five-year deal, given how uncertain the typical agency's future is,
even within the next few months.