Lebanese Travel Agents Threaten Boycott

The Daily Star reports that the Association of Travel and Tourism Agents in Lebanon (ATTAL) has threatened not to sell tickets for the Lebanese national carrier Middle East Airlines and other foreign airlines that plan to lower agent commissions on ticket sales from 9% to 6%.
MEA and foreign airlines in Lebanon decided in January to lower the agents` commissions in the wake of the open skies policy approved by the government last December and similar reductions in other countries in the region.
“These reductions will take away one-third of our annual income from ticket sales, which ranges between $250 million and $300 million a year,” said ATTAL president Ghassan Kheireddine, whose organization represents about 250 of Lebanon`s estimated 700 travel agents.
Kheireddine said that it will only become clear which companies are paying 9% and which 6% at the end of March, when travel agents send their sales figures to the airlines.
Kheireddine told a press conference last Friday that agents may take their case to court if the government does not intervene in the matter. “According to the 1972 law governing the operations of travel agents in Lebanon, any reductions in commissions should be approved by the government in conjunction with IATA (International Air Transport Association),” he said.
Travel agents fall under the authority of the Ministry of Tourism and airlines under the authority of the Ministry of Transport and Public Works, which has not stopped airlines from reducing the commissions. MEA and the foreign airlines contend that these reductions are in line with IATA regulations, which are slowly moving toward eliminating commissions.
“The global trend nowadays is to reduce the commissions, because most airlines can sell directly on the internet, forgoing the need for salesmen,” said Mohammed Hadi Baaj, adviser to Transport and Public Works Minister Najib Mikati. “In the future the commissions will go even lower and reach 0%, like in the US and Europe.”