Travel agents face more cuts
Rates on transborder and international flights reduced

by Nancy Gardiner
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 06/97) - Two Canadian airlines are cutting their international and transborder commissions to travel agents.

The new commission rates offered by Canadian Airlines and Air Canada to travel agents start Nov. 1.

One manager of a travel agency in Nunavut who asked not to be identified, says: "I guess they (the airlines) don't want us to be in business anymore. It's a scary situation. The airlines are definitely trying to cut out the travel agents. I think it's hurting all the agencies."

Although transborder and international ticketing has an almost negligible effect on the Nunavut agency, the manager says commission cuts on domestic tickets instituted a year ago have hurt and continue to hurt.

Kerry Yamkowy, manager of Key West Travel in Yellowknife, says: "It's the pits, but there's not an awful lot we can do about it, other than pass it onto the clients. Basically, they've (the airlines) gone ahead and passed another fare increase onto the passenger. They make us look bad, rather than them."

The rates are targeted for all tickets purchased for flights to the United States (transborder) and other international destinations for both airlines.

A year ago, the airlines put a cap on travel agent's commissions on domestic flights, but percentage-wise, Northern travel agents took a bigger hit, says Yamkowy.

The average ticket price in Yellowknife is more than $600, whereas in Edmonton it's about $340.

And at the same time last year, Yellowknife travel agents started charging a service charge, says Yamkowy. That charge varies between agencies and depends upon the ticketing service provided and whether it's corporate, she says.

"I feel the airlines will lose out. We'll look for the lowest fares we can find," says Yamkowy. "In the past, we did the best for the airline," Will other travel agents pass the cost onto the air travelling public?

"If you want to stay in business, that's what you're going to have to do -- pass it onto customers," says Evelyn Nind, manager of Marlin Travel. "American airlines have also done this as well."

American Airlines Inc. and Delta Air Lines Inc. unveiled similar cuts recently.

"When they started at the domestic level, I think you can expect service fees to go up. Somebody's going to pay for this and it's usually the public. But we can never make up what we are charging now. If they go up and that's up to individual agencies, we will never make up what we are going to lose."

"Air Canada must reduce commission expenses on transborder and international sales in order to remain cost competitive in these markets," says Marc Rosenberg, vice-president of sales and product distribution for Air Canada. The new Air Canada commission is eight per cent -- a drop from 10 per cent.

"Canadian is matching the industry move to lower base commission rates to ensure its competitive position in the marketplace," says Barbara Amster, senior vice-president, marketing and sales. The new Canadian Airlines commission rate is eight per cent with a ceiling of $70 for round trips and $35 for one-way flights.

Allen Stanzell, operations manager of Mack Travel could not be reached for comment.

Gail Wolski, general manager for Top of the World travel wasn't available for comment. Top of the World Travel in Cambridge Bay referred comments to Yellowknife.