Online booking to hit travel agents

DUBAI - Online flight booking is set to become more attractive to travellers when travel agents introduce service charges.

By Zoe Sinclair

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Published: Tue 5 Aug 2008, 1:36 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 5:00 PM

However, travel agents say they are worried about losing business and will be forced to introduce the service charges to replace commission paid by airlines.

Emirates Airline has said it will drop its seven per cent commission to travel agents from October 1 and other airlines serving the UAE have said they will follow suit.

"Emirates will align itself with current market practices and move to zero per cent commission on October 1," spokesperson said.

Etihad Airways spokesperson Thomas Clarke said the airline was also reviewing its commission fee.

"Commission levels of payments to travel agents worldwide are coming down and as the market becomes more mature, Etihad Airways is naturally reviewing its commission policy with regard to such fees in the Middle East," Clarke said.

International carriers, particularly in Europe, have already dropped commission fees.

"British Airways introduced zero per cent commission in the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain in 2006," a British Airways spokesperson said

The BA spokesperson could not give figures but said online booking with the airline was proving increasingly popular with GCC customers.

Malaysian Airlines introduced zero per cent commission in the UAE on August 1, according to Merina Abu Tahir, the airline's regional general manager, Middle East and Africa.

"With the continued global upward trend of Internet bookings for air travel, the travel market place has changed significantly where customers now can engage directly with travel suppliers. Customers who transact through our internet booking facility at will not be charged service fees," she said.

Dubai Travel and Tours Group manager Leo Fewtrell said it could mean less choice for passengers and only added to the costs agents faced.

"Many of the agents depended on that seven per cent. Now they're going to have to work a lot smarter and the client is going to pay for that."

Some airlines, including Indian Airlines, have not yet made their online booking accessible in the UAE. "We're driven by the national carrier in each market," said Abhay Pathak, Indian Airlines Gulf regional manager.

"We're still looking at the pros and cons but if the market follows, we will. ”

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