Travel Agents Protest United's Cut in Ticket Commission Local Owners Say Airlines' Trying to Put Them out of Business

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Byline: Lorilyn Rackl Daily Herald Staff Writer

Armed with picket signs, leaflets and a lot of pent-up frustration, local ticket agents Wednesday bombarded the United Airlines terminal at O'Hare International Airport to protest a 20 percent commission cut.

United on Friday pared back what it pays travel agents for selling tickets. The Elk Grove Township-based airline cut agents' 10 percent commission to 8 percent. It didn't take long for American Airlines and Delta Air Lines to follow suit.

The move immediately sparked an outcry among travel agents, many of whom still are reeling from a $50 commission cap several airlines imposed on agents two years ago.

"I'm embarrassed to say when the cap came out we didn't do a darn thing," said Roy Stevens, owner of Stevens Travel in Schaumburg. "This time we're going to put up a fight."

Stevens and his wife, Geri, organized the protest at O'Hare to urge customers to boycott United unless it reinstates the 10 percent commission.

"What they're doing is wrong," Stevens said. "The airlines have been through two years of record revenues and record profits. Why do they need to do this?"

The answer, says the nation's largest airline, is to control costs so it can offer better services.

"We anticipate that this action will result in savings of approximately $80 million to $100 million annually," said United Chairman Gerald Greenwald in a written statement. "It will allow United to more effectively thrive in an increasingly competitive airline marketplace, and it will allow us to invest more in our product and service to travelers. …