Travel Confidential: V.com continues fat-trimming

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Michele McDonald.acation.com is continuing to shed another couple of thousand "nonproducing" agencies and expects its membership to level off at about 6,000 agencies at the end of the year. It dropped 1,300 agencies and added 480 in the first nine months of the year, netting out at 8,000 in early October.

The strategy is working, Vacation.com president Dick Knodt tells us: "We actually gained 4% in preferred-supplier revenue overall via this effort."

He also said he expects Vacation.com's overall market share to see a slight uptick by year's end, as well.

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Look for Cendant Corp. to have an "exciting" announcement about NeatAgent, the dynamic-packaging application that enables agents to set their own markups and fees, in the "near future."

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Being a multinational, multilingual company, Amadeus is careful about words that may mean nothing in one language but something ghastly in another.

And it's a darned good thing. The new moniker for its Airline IT Services group is Altea, a rather pretty name that doesn't seem to mean much beyond an adorable little town on Spain's Costa Blanca (Althea, on the other hand, means "rose of Sharon").

But Amadeus' first selection for a nifty new name quickly turned to a rejection when research determined that in the Mandarin language, the first syllable translated as "vomit" and the second as another out-of-control bodily function that TC is much too delicate to name.

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A former employee of defunct Hotel Distribution Network (HDN) told TC that anything of value at HDN's Sanford, Fla., headquarters, including computer servers, was shipped to Brazil, where at least one of the company's principals is operating a Portuguese-language version of the online hotel booking site.

So even if HDN, which told Florida's division of consumer services -- the agency that administers the Florida Sellers of Travel Act -- that it had shut down on June 18 but continued its sales efforts after that date, files for bankruptcy in the U.S., there will be slim pickings for ripped-off consumers, travel agents and hotels.

HDN employees, who have dealt with bouncing paychecks and unreimbursed travel expenses, also appear to be out of luck.

Meanwhile, we hear that former HDN president George Demakos wants to resume his former career as a stockbroker, the gall of which so amazes TC that she is temporarily devoid of wisecracks.

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TC is bemused by the new poster tacked up at Lambert-St. Louis Airport: the photograph and name of the Transportation Security Administration's "Baggage Screener of the Month."

Is this to provide passengers with the name and face of the guy who rummages through their clothing behind the scenes?

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The Bed Wars are rearing their heads -- or pillows? -- again.

Sir Richard Branson, who is allergic to seeing any day go by without getting any press, challenged British Airways chairman Lord Marshall to go "bed to bed," which could be a scary thought for guys of their age.

Branson proposed that an independent research firm manage a contest in which passengers "and their partners" test each carrier's business-class beds to determine which is better.

"Better for what?" a British Airways guy blurted when he saw the bit about "partners."

E-mail Michele McDonald at [email protected].

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