BEVERLY HILLS : Travel Agents Protest Caps on Airline Ticket Income

Angry travel agents rallied in front of airline ticket offices in Beverly Hills last week, protesting a decision by airline companies to cap the commissions agents earn on the sale of domestic air tickets.

More than 100 travel agents met at the Beverly Hilton on Friday, asserting that the reduced fees could drive them out of business and hurt California's travel and tourism industry.

In recent days, the nation's biggest airlines have said they will no longer pay travel agents the standard 10% commission. Instead, the airlines will limit agents' payments to a maximum of $50 for round-trip domestic tickets with a base fare above $500 and to $25 for any one-way ticket with a base fare above $250.

Airlines have said they need the cap to help control their operating costs.

In a meeting before the rally, travel agent Jim Berry warned fellow agents that they could expect to lose between 50% and 80% of their revenues, causing layoffs in the industry and subsequent drops in hotel and rental car bookings.

"It's going to be a ripple effect throughout the state," said Berry, a member of the Coalition for the Traveling Public, an industry group formed to see the commissions restored.

The agents, from travel offices on the Westside and San Fernando Valley, moved their protest inside to the airline ticket counters at the Beverly Hilton. Pretending to be angry customers, they demanded information on flights, car rentals and frequent-flyer miles, seeking to demonstrate that--without travel agents--airlines would not be able to meet the public's demand for service.

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