No News Is Good News for Internet Travel Agents

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Internet travel agencies have had a nerve-wracking but pleasantly quiet month since Northwest Airlines quit paying them commissions March 1, according to a surprised group of industry sources.


The sources said they had assumed that nearly every other major airline firm would follow NWA with announcements of commission cuts. This would have wreaked havoc on Web travel agencies largely dependent on airfare ticket revenue, such as Travelocity.com, Cheaptickets.com, Priceline.com and Expedia.com.


Airlines have had a history of copying one another's online travel agent policies since Delta Air Lines first cut the Internet commissions in 1996, said Kate Rice, an analyst at PhoCusWright, a research firm covering travel e-business.


"People tend to react in this industry very quickly," she said. "It looks like the other airlines are in wait-and-see mode in reaction to NWA more than anything else."


NWA, Minneapolis, is banking on its viewers migrating from the travel sites to its www.nwa.com to buy plane tickets.


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