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Michael Bennett is the former Senior Producer of the Travel Channels west coast operations and is currently a travel writer for Savoy and Black Enterprise Magazine. Michael is the host of Globetrotting on BET's BET on Jazz Network. For travel question write to

The Latest Airline News

Every few months I like to check-in with the airlines to find out how they
are planning to gouge the consumer. The airlines continually dream-up ways to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers. Most of what I’m about to write about are thinly veiled attempts by the airlines to drive up their own profits under the guise of providing better customer service.

Lets start with one of my favorite topics, electronic tickets or e-tickets. As readers of this column know by now, I hate e-tickets. I hate them because if you ever have a need to change flights due to missed connections or cancellations, the only way to get booked on the next available flight of another carrier is to stand in line at the ticket counter of the offending airline, have them print you a paper ticket and walk to another airline to book a new flight. Had you been issued a paper ticket in the first place you could have avoid the line at the ticket counter and used a phone to switch flights.

Last year several of the major carriers including Northwest Airlines, Delta
and American started charging $10 to passengers who want a paper ticket. Well, last month a new carrier started to impose a printed ticket fee, America West Airlines. And in a game of follow the leader several Canadian carriers will soon impose the same fee. These charges are almost as bad as going to the bank and paying the teller a service fee to deposit or withdraw your own money.

One way the airlines are trying to combat this problem is by forming
alliances where one carrier will honor another carrier’s ticket. Just last
week, American and Continental formed just such an alliance that allows
e-ticketed passengers to switch flights to the others airline if their flight
is cancelled. American and United have a similar deal in place, but Continental and United do not. Confused? How do you find out if the carrier you’re flying has a deal in place with a competitor, pick up the phone and call, it’s a good piece of information to have at your disposal when dealing with cancelled or late flights.

Also, be on the lookout for e-tickets on international flights. A practice
that was all but prohibited in the past may become reality sooner than you think as several European carriers are planning to switch to e-tickets before the end of this year.

If you are a fan of online booking, Travelocity now imposes a $10 fee on all tickets booked through their site on United Airlines. Don’t blame
Travelocity, just last month several of the major carriers
announced they would no longer pay per-ticket commissions to travel agents.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s an online agent or an agent right down the street from your house. The airlines sold it as a way for consumers to save money, but in fact most travel agents, like Travelocity will be passing that $10 fee on to you. Estimates are the airline industry will save $1 Billion a year by not paying commissions.

But all is not lost for those of you who book airlines tickets through the
service of a conventional travel agent. Large travel agencies still qualify
for commissions based on volume sales. It’s an incentive-based payment
system known as “override commissions.” Large travel agencies book most if not all their customers on flights operated by one or two carriers in exchange for commission payments. This system only works for the larger agencies, those that sell in bulk. The mom and pop travel agent down the street from your house probably doesn’t qualify for the “override commissions” which means the cost of an airline ticket will be higher as they pass on their overhead to you.

The bottom line in all of this, you need to shop and compare. And when
you’re finished shop and compare some more. Airline ticket pricesliterally
change thousands of times per day. Book early for the cheapest airfares. Online fares aren’t necessarily the cheapest, especially if you use a large agency with “override commissions.”