Travel Confidential: Agencies still getting air pay

little birdie told TC that a remarkable number of airlines, most paying no base commissions, are paying at least some agencies some kind of point-of-sale incentives on some portion of bookings. For starters, our source identified 55 airlines at zero base pay; among them, 31 are paying such incentives. Another 13 carriers are doing the same.

Most such offers, we were told, are market-sensitive, meaning city-pair and/or fare specific. Most apply on international sectors, but there have been plenty of transcontinental incentives recently and a few in other domestic markets. Our birdie chirped out one more thought: As more people return to the air and the competition livens up, "We will see more incentives." And maybe that will occur before more agents lose interest.

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TC's Candor Award this week has to go to Wyndham for putting this headline on a company press release: "Wyndham Unleashes Another Hotel Industry First: Affordable Mini-Bars." This was the hotel chain's way of rolling back what it called the "notoriously exorbitant" prices that have become the industry standard. Wyndham's new menu list for its minibars offers a Coke for a $1.50, which isn't too bad, considering.

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Norwegian Cruise Line and the Carnival family will have "priority" berthing in New York under their new deal with the city. But will the smaller players get shut out? No, said Radisson Seven Seas Cruises CEO Mark Conroy, whose line offers weekly summer sailings from the city. Conroy, who told TC that he's excited about the new plans, said, "We may have to balance our schedule around theirs, but we're going to take advantage of the improvements, as well."

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According to Adventure Tours, the number of packages that were booked under a mistaken price was greatly overestimated in last week's Travel Confidential. The actual number was "only about a dozen," according to a spokeswoman for the Mark Travel Corp., owner of Adventure Tours, making the cost to the company about $2,400.

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With Rick Sasso's name back in the spotlight with MSC Cruises, some folks were wondering what's happened to Sasso's shipboard tailoring business, which was to sell bespoke suits to cruise passengers during the voyage.

Sasso's business, now run by son Richard Jr. and called Davanti, isn't on every cruise ship. But Sasso told TC Davanti is doing well. There are tailors on Celebrity and Costa ships as well as at a landside operation, he said.

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Geography 101: A travel agent friend in Newfoundland, N.J., recently received a piece of mail from a sixth-grade student in El Paso, Texas, who said he was doing a research report "and I chose your country, Newfoundland." Oddly, the envelope was made out, in the child's handwriting, to the agency's street address, including city, state and ZIP code.

Our agent friend reports, "Newfoundland, N.J., has been called a lot of things, but this is the first time it's been referred to as a 'foreign country.' I ordered a bunch of stuff from the real Newfoundland. I'm going to send it to him, along with some Canadian money." And maybe a map?

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Carol Young, owner of All Seasons Travel and leader in a fight to convince the Chattanooga, Tenn., airport to end its support of another retailer's telephone information and booking services, closed her agency, which had been at the airport.

Under the name Experience Travel, she now is a home-based independent. She said, "I was going into debt, I was paying rent [to the airport] while the airport paid another agency twice my rent [$30,000 a year] to operate the FareLine telephone service."

TC found Young at, of all places, the Chattanooga airport's Web site, which now lists local agencies and links to those agencies' Web sites.

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