The travel agency dilemma resolved: support the airlines and suppliers that support us.

I have stated many times before, airlines and some suppliers are not our friends... they are our competitors as well as our suppliers, which is basically unheard of in any other professional services equation.

Max Najar, Director and Manager, Axis Travel Centre

Max Najar is Director and Manager at Axis Travel Centre.
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AIRLINE accountants use stupidity in their semantics when they place travel agent’s commissions on their ledgers.

They have never paid travel agents, an “expense”, noted as being called a “commission”, at all.

They have been paying travel agents – in the past – a marketing/advertising/support fee, not a commission, and that is not a cost to them but a financial investment by them to travel agents.

IATA also needs to adjust their terminology as that is where it emanates from.

If they changed their mindset and silly semantics, then our relationships with airlines and many suppliers would be rock solid, built on mutual “partnership”, trust, and a mutual focus to deliver client (not customer) service excellence, professionally-based advice, backup services and leading towards a financial profit for all of us “partners”.

AFTA should send a memo to travel agents that does not contravene ACCC and ASIC, and also any Fair Trading regulation. AFTA cannot recommend or endorse any supplier against another, but a simple worded and repeated statement such as:

“…travel agents should consider  how best to advise, book and issue travel components for clients based on the support, ongoing professional business relationship and remuneration or lack of remuneration that each airline or supplier is providing that agency in the total travel equation, and make their own business decision as to how best to transact their business going forward.”

Airlines and some suppliers should add to their brochures , on-hold phone messages, websites and marketing materials a statement like: 

“ Please contact your professional, accredited travel agent or travel advisor to advise you on and also book our services/product. Their expertise, credentials, experience and ability to use their expansive toolkit of Computer Reservation System facilities with their trusted travel industry contacts are well worth your investment”

Industry sales reps who communicate with travel agents are usually really nice people, but nowadays most now carry no weight and need to get permissions to go to the toilet and if a special travel agent favour or task is asked for, they seem to always need their HQ to answer them or have their overseas marketing department contradict what is needed, as their marketing department tends to spend their monies, not on sales reps, but on biased direct marketing techniques and website offers that they think we travel agents have no access into! We are not fools!

How dumb are they to relegate us travel agents as being “uneducated” or “oblivious” when they undermine our intelligence and make offers to their frequent flyers, Premium travellers and others that we are disallowed access into or not allowed to book and issue, but then these same “partner” airlines and suppliers have the gall to have their Australian based sales reps “beg us”, “ask us” “ or “request from us” pax sales to keep their sales figures up and staff employed!

In most cases it was us-the humble travel agent—that swayed customers into clients to book on that airline or on that tour or cruise or have them upgraded anyway. We were the initial referees!

Travel agents accepting zero commissions must now add even more value to the travel equation by offering clients ongoing professional services, personal contacts, seamless communication channels without waiting times and hardcore layers red-tape-complemented with personalised human touches.

Travel agents must remind clients what they do not get if they book direct with an airline or other supplier, and also add that Qantas, amongst others, do demand monies when you make a phone call to their call centres per call, or when auxiliary services are required, when most travel agents do not. In some cases some cruise lines even state that “the cruise cabin given to you on the phone call are correct whilst this call is happening but may change if monies are not paid for during this call”  or something like that. If that is not high-pressure sales speak then I do not know what is!

Here is an idea! Maybe travel agents should consider booking the flights/cruises/tours then adding a simple booking fee but then referring clients to the airlines or suppliers if they wish amendments, exchanges, upgrades, reissues or refunds to be made. This will alleviate the pressure from us agents and pass it onto the airlines or suppliers. If a client is unsatisfied then the travel agent can refer clients to Consumer Affairs, ACCC, ASIC or media channels.

A bit like buying a fridge from Harvey Norman, who sell you the fridge – make their margin – but you need to contact the supplier direct if there are any issues! I am not condoning this just yet, but this changes the business dynamics totally, and I guarantee you that the airlines and suppliers who deserve this level of transaction will not be able to financially and materialistically handle the workload that current travel agents handle! Imagine the social media backlash!!

Reality check is that we do need to maintain a relationship between agent and supplier, so to consider what some agents are considering and banning the sale of some products is not logical nor sustainable as some airlines and suppliers hold sway in certain routes, classes, and services.

The reality must be that we will book a product by levying specific fee levels (which can vary) onto some airlines and suppliers, with a short explanation on a card/website/label stating why some airlines and suppliers have a different fee level imposed than others, and how they are treating us as purported “travel partners”! This may incite some sympathy by clients, but importantly the cost differential payable by a client may sway them to book with another competitor!

I have stated many times before, airlines and some suppliers are not our friends in truth, although they create a false image with nice words that we are. They are our competitors as well as our suppliers, which is basically unheard of in any other professional services equation.

  • Lawyers charge per 15 minutes and get referral fees and load costs enormously.
  • Accountants charge per hour and do not fill in forms or apply for data without loading fees.
  • Doctors charge per 15 minutes and get (back ended) referral fees from ongoing referrals and tests for patients.
  • Plumbers and electricians charge a call-out fee and then per 15 minute block and buy products from Bunnings/Mitre10 10 wholesale and sell to us retail.

Travel agents want to work alongside airlines and suppliers but are expected to do all this for free, while these same entities want us to provide money into their bank accounts so they can pay their executives huge salaries and bonuses and negate in paying travel agents anything.

They have disrespectfully not even reduced consumer costs payable after deleting travel agents commissions from the new sale prices and cut supporting staff and sub-contractors numbers!

Amazingly, many airlines are still willing to take a travel agents’ loyal clients onto free junkets or confidentially offer the same client some free tickets or free upgrades but when a travel agent, that same day, asks to allow 5 or 10 kilograms extra baggage allowance, or waive a $100 ticketing fee they cannot do so! R U serious!

All travel agents should unite with their networks and stand strong as a united voice – with or without AFTA support – and drive a joint message home to all airlines and suppliers in the strongest terms, and in the same breath support those airlines and suppliers who are paying us respectable commissions and fees that are not being completed against by that very same airline or supplier.

Partners should play as a team.

In 2022 many airlines and some suppliers have forgotten the true meaning of that word “partner” in both a supporting role and also in a financially viable sense. The dictionary meaning is below…

“A partner is also one of two people who dance together or who play a sport or a game together, esp. when they play as a team.”

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