Airline Tailors New Booking System for Travel Agents

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Delta Air Lines has introduced a new online booking system that gives travel agents full access to the company's Internet fares.


The move seeks to remedy the growing rift between airline carriers and travel agents that began in 1995 when airlines started placing limits on commissions paid to agents making Internet bookings.


Travel agents now will be able to book all fares directly with Delta on the delta.com Web site through its Online Agency Service Center. Agents will earn commissions on published fares ticketed via the site. However, Web-only fares, which are traditionally lower than advertised fares, are not eligible for commissions.


The booking site also establishes a foundation for future online programs for travel agents, including individual agent recognition, reward administration, and online tracking and reporting.


"It would sort of indicate to me that they've gone from a concept where they wanted to put us out of business to the point where they're talking to us," said Richard Copland, president of the 26,000-member American Association of Travel Agents.


Copland said that by giving agents access to such fares, Delta is acknowledging that the industry still desperately needs the services of agents. Travel agents still book roughly 80 percent of all airline fares, a percentage that has remained unchanged through the explosive growth of Internet travel sites, he said.


"Agents are still an important force in the distribution system," he said, adding that he expects other carriers to follow suit.


Delta officials said agents have long been seeking access to online air deals because while many travelers have begun to research prices online, they still rely on agents to book their flights.


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