AAA Says Northwest New Fees Bad for Travelers

AAA announced that travelers
will pay more, waste time and lose access to travel experts under new fees
announced yesterday by Northwest Airlines.
“These new fees are worse than a fare increase,” said Steve Frank,
president and CEO, AAA Minneapolis. “Not only will they result in higher
fares, but they penalize travelers and travel agents for using customer-
friendly booking methods.”

“Travelers will have to pay more to benefit from the fare comparison
abilities of travel agents and travel Web sites. Travel agents are
penalized by being pushed to Northwest’s inferior online booking site,
instead of computer reservation systems used by nearly all major
airlines,” said Jeff Ogden, president and COO, AAA Minnesota/Iowa.

The airline says the new fees will take effect in two parts. Beginning
August 27, 2004, customers will be charged $5 for calling Northwest to
book a ticket and $10 for purchasing one in-person at one of Northwest’s
airport locations. On September 1, 2004, the airline will begin charging
travel agents $7.50 to book a round-trip ticket (or $3.75 one-way) through
the global distribution systems used by major airlines, hotels and rental
car companies.

“Northwest has suggested that customers use the airline’s Web site to
avoid fees,” Frank said. “This eliminates easy comparison shopping through
travel agents and online agency web sites while limiting travelers to just
one airline—certainly not a customer friendly way to engender loyalty
among travelers. Similarly, Northwest has suggested that travel agents use
its Web site to book their clients, creating redundant work and
unnecessary delay by forcing travel agents to use the airline’s unwieldy
site.”

“AAA understands that Northwest needs to improve its bottom line in a
hyper-competitive airline industry, but this move clearly does not endear
the airline to travelers and travel agents who have other options,” Ogden
added. “In addition, Northwest’s rationale does not hold valid for those
markets where they are unaffected by smaller, low-fare carriers.”
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