Thanks to Continental Airlines’ latest cost-cutting moves, airline
bashing in the travel agency community is at an all-time high.
Among other things, Continental told retailers they would
receive $25 “administrative” debit memos for any U.S. taxes and
fees reported incorrectly. The airlines also doubled its paper
ticket fee to $20 for domestic flights and made it applicable to
all distribution channels, including agents.
There is also some bad news for low-fare customers, who
Continental said would have to start paying for some services they
now get free. An airline spokesman said Continental cannot legally
disclose what fees will be charged until it happens, but new
charges will be revealed during the next several weeks.
Travel agents, already pummeled by other major airline moves
this year, were furious.
Janet Staton, president of Vista Travel in Las Cruces, N.M.,
shot off a letter to the local daily newspaper and authored a story
to appear in two local monthly newspapers.
“I got some stuff off my chest,” Staton said.
Staton told her readers that “what is going on with the major
airlines is not in your best interests. The sudden conversion to
fiscal responsibility the airlines are announcing is totally
self-serving and will result in less choice and higher fares for
In order to save money, she wrote, the airlines have “stopped
travel agents from doing any favors for you, such as getting a
waiver if a fare went up overnight before you could decide if you
wanted the ticket ... deleted senior staff in favor of cheaper,
less experienced, poorly trained people ... done away with senior
fares and senior coupon booklets, and, lowest of all, United
Airlines did not pay its 9/11 pilots for their return flights.”
Staton reminded readers: “The people who are making your travel
more difficult and more expensive are the very same people who have
run these huge corporations into the ground and have been bailed
out with our tax dollars.”
She also discussed the smaller airlines that are not getting the
government attention that United and the biggies are. She contended
that the majors have serious congressional lobbyists and have lined
the pockets of elected officials.
“Why does United deserve a federal bailout when smaller airlines
like National and Spirit have been denied federal aid?” she
Meanwhile, John Clifford, president of International Travel
Management in La Jolla, Calif., fired off a letter to Continental
explaining that, with the new $20 fee for paper tickets, plus the
additional fee his agency will need to implement to cover the
paperwork cost, “my guess is that our clients will choose an
alternative airline that we offer them which does not charge this
He added, “Because we are already working for you for zero
commission, I’m sure you will understand that Continental will now
be my last choice in choosing a carrier for our corporate and
leisure clients, for paper as well as electronic tickets.”