TRAVEL agencies across India are banding together to close for business today in protest against a cut in commissions.
According to Jay Bhatia, chairman – Western region, Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI), at least 1,000 travel consultants have pledged not to open today. Large international travel companies who declined to be named have said they will remain closed, and other associations such as the Travel Agents Federation of India have also thrown their weight behind the move.
At the heart of the issue is the zero commission policy, which India’s travel trade has repeatedly lobbied against since it took effect in January. Discussions with airlines and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation have not yielded positive results.
The impact has also been exacerbated by the recent unbundling of services from airfare prices (TTG Asia e-Daily, May 2, 2013).
Lamented a travel consultant who requested anonymity: “We are already not making any money from booking air tickets.”
As of this morning, a letter of appeal had made rounds on social media to IATA and non-IATA agencies asking them to remain shut.
Iqbal Mulla, president, TAAI, said: “National and international airlines have adopted unethical practices which are not in favour of the passenger or the consultant.
“We need to safeguard the rights of consultants and issues affecting their business and threatening their survival such as the weekly settlement system, disparity in fares, etc.”
Bhatia added: “We need to stop this cartelisation of airlines. We need to regulate fares (especially during holidays and long weekends) and ensure that airlines maintain complete transparency in setting airfares.”
He said travel consultants demanded a regulatory body to prevent the exploitation of airfares, while also challenging the conversion of the existing fortnightly payment to a weekly one.
Bhatia estimated that the one-day shutdown would cost airlines an estimated Rs1 billion (US$18.2 million) in business from Mumbai alone, while a TAAI source said airlines would lose Rs400 million from New Delhi.