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