Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Low Air Fares Tough on Travel Agents

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Low Air Fares Tough on Travel Agents

Article excerpt

While the airlines' summer fare war is great for travelers -- those who can get through to an agent to make a reservation -- it's hard work for very little pay for travel agencies selling the super low price tickets.

Take Southwest Airlines, which started the fare war Friday with $25 one-way fares to celebrate its 25th birthday. Travel agents booking the discount fare receive a miserly $2.50 commission.

"This has been an amazing avalanche of calls that has put a tremendous load on our staff," said Ron Perry, president of Oklahoma City's Prime Time Travel.

"This has overloaded the system completely," he said. "The result is that nobody gets good service from all this."

Nearly every travel agency in metropolitan Oklahoma City has been swamped with calls from people wanting to take advantage of the extremely low fares.

"It's been crazy around here, just like every other time it happens (an airline announcing a super low fare)," said Wren Jackson, vice president in charge of marketing with Bentley Hedges Travel Service. "People who don't normally handle ticketing have had to handle the calls we're getting."

Most other carriers have followed Southwest's lead, matching the maverick airline on certain routes. American, United and Delta all have announced low fares to compete, but not necessarily the same as Southwest.

While tough on travel agents, the low fares also have been harrowing on Southwest reservations agents. Southwest's reservation centers have been swamped with calls to such an extent that a recorded telephone message tells callers the wait to get through could be as long as three hours.

Sometimes it may take longer.

The super low fares are good from Aug. 19 through Oct. 31, but the tickets must be purchased by July 23 within one day of making the reservation. They are nonrefundable.

For those who managed to get through Tuesday, there was disappointing news: There are virtually no cheap seats left. …

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