ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — When the discussion inevitably turned to airline ancillary fees during the "Booking Technologies" session at Travel Weekly’s Home Based Travel Agent Show and Conference on Thursday, technology providers put a different spin on the normally touchy topic.
"I think this could go the other way," said Greg Kott, president of Passport Online and one of the four panelists. "Don’t ancillary service fees provide another added service to agents?"
Kott and his colleagues on the panel suggested that if agents make sure clients are aware of all the fees that will be applied to their flight upfront, they can alleviate some of the sticker shock and frustration passengers experience when they get to the airport.
"The problem that most travelers are having is that when they get to the airport all these service fees are waiting for them," said panelist Bill Moreno, manager of new business development and hosted programs at Amadeus North America.
"What the customer wants to see is transparency at the front end of the booking,” said Moreno. "What we need to do as an industry is let the customer know what we think they’re going to pay."
In response to criticism that the GDSs have been dragging their feet in developing technology that would enable agents to include fees in the booking process, Tina Shaffer, director of supplier marketing for Sabre Travel Network said "that is a great myth."
She added that Sabre was investing heavily to make sure the technology is ready for the airlines to charge ancillary fees through Sabre’s service.
"When [the airlines are] ready, the technology is there," added Moreno, who also suggested that while airlines aren’t likely to get back into the commission game anytime soon, they may at least start to be more agent-friendly in the future as they realize the sales value agents bring.
Kathy Fitzpatrick, president of VAX VacationAccess, added that if agents want to succeed, they need to focus on supplier partners that have a vested interest in the agent community.
"You have to pick your partners," said Fitzpatrick. 'We go after the suppliers that value agent distribution."
The session was moderated by Rob Fixmer, editor of Travel Weekly.