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‘Agents must have unity and code of conduct among themselves’

Jyoti Mayal, Chairperson – Northern Region, Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) and Director, New Airways Travels talks about the latest trends on commission issue and how industry can cope up with the emerging challenges.

Airlines the world over are not paying commission. So why do you’ll insist that airlines in India should pay a commission?

I agree that airlines in many countries are not paying commissions but why do we talk about them and not about the countries where the same airlines are paying commissions? Our country is not ready for it yet. First and foremost, credit is the largest issue. We give credits to corporates and clients. In all mature markets, people work on credit cards. We are still not a mature market. We have a dual economy to a large extent and credit cards have very low credit limits for people. In a few months, we will be having weekly payments. So, we give credit to our clients, make timely and full payment to the airlines, collect all government taxes and taxes on their behalf, give clients service on their behalf and then not get paid for it. Why would I do business where I don't get payment for my services? There is no product that you sell and are not paid commission for. Tickets are now a commodity, where there is an MRP. As per Supreme Court ruling, I cannot add on anything above the fare so then I should be protected like a dealer and be paid for selling the product. We are indirectly funding the airlines for their sustenance but ourselves fighting for survival.

Airlines have many avenues to sell tickets, like online payment, call centres, home delivery of tickets; airline websites etc. In such a scenario, why should they pay travel agents a commission?

The airlines have paid us commissions till the time they needed us. Now with technology they are trying to bypass all human touch. But don't forget they are cutting cost by cutting down their manpower. If they want to totally eradicate the agent then they themselves will need to invest more in manpower. I think the agents should also try to do away with selling tickets. Let the airlines sell themselves, collect payments and service the client directly. Let ticketing be an auxiliary and not their main business. If they need us they will come to us. Similarly, let the client also go directly and face all the problems of refunds/reissuance/on the spot payment/confirmations and so on. If clients need our services we will demand payment for our consultancy.

How do you think the default of Spring Travels impacts the travel industry? Why did this happen? Is there a lesson for the airlines?

Defaults always set a bad example. It could be Spring Travels or someone else. Why do the airlines like to put all their eggs in one basket? I t is the airlines which are totally to be blamed. A small agent who has limited stock of five tickets, to get that additional sixth ticket he has to literally beg. But a big agent who exceeds his limit by Rs 100 crores and there is no one to monitor him. The airlines are aware that an agent is selling at a price which is much more than he is receiving, why isn't this monitored by them? They at that time are very happy as their business is on the increase. It's the airlines totally to be blamed for all defaults. They are also the ones creating unhealthy competition by giving huge targets in the market. I wonder if the airlines will ever learn. This is not the first time a default has happened. Till the time the airlines don't stop putting their eggs in one basket and empower the agent to the limit to go bust, nothing will change. Now, because of the defaulting agent, all agents will be scrutinised for their business for no fault of theirs.

Why don’t travel agents charge service fee directly from the client rather than depending on the airline to give you commission? Why is the agent community not united on this front?

The travel agents today are a confused society. We have been sandwiched. We have lived in an era where we were pivotal for the airlines/travel industry. We were happy with only ticketing and never reinvented ourselves. The airlines have over taken us. The travel agents should charge from the client for rendering travel services but like I have always stated the agents must also have unity and code of conduct among themselves which would be beneficial to them and the entire fraternity. It is point of tuning yourselves. But that doesn't mean airlines should not pay us. That's our right too.

How much of the airline inventory does a travel agent sell considering that the agent is one of the many channels of distribution?

Travel agents till date are the main channel of selling tickets. 85 per cent market share is still derived from them. But it seems the airlines are in a hurry to oust us.

There has been a talk of boycotting airlines, will this work in the current environment?

Yes I firmly agree that if we all get together, the associations/OTA's/corporate/agent/TMC's /consolidators and fight for a cause we can achieve all. The travel industry has to understand this and collectively move forward. It will be everyone's gain. I would say all associations should join hands. Why are there so many associations if we are all fighting for the same cause but each has a different agenda? Also, if any agent, who is part of an association and doesn't work for it's betterment, should be asked to surrender his membership. We should stand together through thick and thin if the cause is right.

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