Sept. 3, 2004 Travelers purchasing tickets at American Airlines ticket counters Monday better bring along an extra $10.
The Airline announced Friday morning that starting Monday tickets purchased at American and American Eagle ticket counters will have a $10 fee for ticket purchase. This isn't just a holiday surprise, it's a new policy.
The Airline will be adding a $5 fee for tickets bought through a telephone reservations center. The charges will apply equally to one-way and round-trip tickets. The fee will also apply to AAdvantage program award tickets.
The people avoiding the charge are those who buy through the Airline's Web site or are AAdvantage Executive Platinum members or AAirpass customers.
Don't think you will avoid the fee by buying the popular E-tickets. If you use the phone you are still going to get $5 tacked onto the price. In other words, if you don't have access to a computer, you're out of luck.
The move is designed to bring in about $25 million annually to American, according to a press release from Dan Garton, AA executive vice president, marketing. American is the largest U. S. carrier, a part of parent company AMR Corp.
Garton said, "These steps are necessary to ensure that we can compete effectively in a marketplace where charging fees for personalized, value-added services is becoming a common practice."
The Airlines said the fee would affect about 20 percent of the tickets American sells. About 50 percent are sold through travel agents and corporate travel departments, and 30 percent are sold on American's Web site and other Internet outlets.
The move got the ire of Derryle Berger, manager of Caribbean Travel, probably the oldest travel agency on St. Thomas. Berger has seen travel trends change in the territory since the 60's, when her mother, Jean Brown Hendricks, started the agency.
"It's not fair to assume that everybody has a computer," she said Friday. "I don't think that's right. It's ridiculous. Not everybody will be able to book online."
"Basically, it's a trend," Berger said. "Northwest started it. And they are telling their customers that if they book through a travel agent, they will charge that agent." The major carriers quit paying V. I. agents a commission about five years ago.
Northwest announced last month they would charge the same fees as American, but added a $7.50 service fee on round-trip tickets bought through systems used by travel agents, according to a Thursday Associated Press story.
The American Society of Travel Agents and the Business Travel Coalition have asked the Justice Department to investigate Northwest's fees on tickets bought by travel agents.
Northwest dropped the fee Friday. For a full report, (See "Pacific Business News" ).
All airlines are trying to drive more sales to their Web sites, which are cheaper to operate. The trend doesn't stop with the airline industry. An effort to do away with human over-the-counter transactions recently affected the territory when some cell phone companies began charging a fee to pay bills at their offices.
Mary Simpson, owner of Southerland Tours on St. Croix, was philosophical. "That's the cost of the human touch, and human knowledge," she said.
There was no word Friday on other major carriers instituting the ticket fee. Robert de Lugo, Delta Air Lines station manager, said Friday evening that he was not aware of any change in the airline's ticket policies.
David Castelveter, US Airways spokesman, said Friday, "We've not implemented that fee." He explained that by law, an airline is not allowed to publicly announce its intention. He added, "As we speak today, we have not implemented that charge."
Calls to other major carriers were not returned Friday evening.
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