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ASTA's Findings on Service Fees

July 16, 2007 By: Joe Pike Travel Agent

The finding that the vast majority of agencies responding to
the American Society of Travel Agents' (ASTA) recently released service fee
survey charges clients fees for air travel comes as no surprise to Paul Ruden,
ASTA's senior vice president for legal and industry affairs. He says many
people have gotten used to service fees for air travel since airlines cut
commissions. Agencies realize it has to be done, and customers are willing to
pay—Ruden says the fee is usually about $25.

"I've heard many anecdotes about customers who didn't
want to pay a fee, go out and try to book air on their own and either run into
a problem or find that it takes too much time," Ruden says, "and
eventually they decide they'd rather have an agent do it for them."

Of the 94.3 percent of responding agencies that charge a
service fee, most charge a fee for booking air travel. Ruden says he is shocked
about the six percent that don't. "I would have to assume that these are
agencies that typically book tour where air is already included, but I don't
know that information for sure," Ruden says.

The decreasing availability of air commission revenue has
practically forced agents to charge a fee for air tickets, Ruden notes.

"How can you effectively run a business when you are
not being paid for the services you perform?," he queries. "If agents
are not getting a commission for booking air, then they have to charge a fee.
It's just the way a business has to be run."

The survey was conducted by the ASTA Research Family and
includes data on average service fees, policies and revenue. —Joe Pike

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