Northwest to charge ticket fees

With change, Northwest's distribution costs will be in line with low-cost carriers.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Northwest Airlines Corp. plans to begin charging customers and travel agents extra fees for domestic tickets that are not booked through the airline's Web sites.
The airline said Tuesday the new fees will lower the airline's cost of selling all tickets to about $5, or the same as it now spends selling them through the Web sites, and
The changes will save the airline about $70 million annually, bringing Northwest's distribution costs in line with those of low-cost carriers such as JetBlue, Southwest Airlines and Independence Air, said Tim Griffin, Northwest's executive vice president of marketing and distribution.
Those low-cost carriers sell most of their tickets through their own Web sites, Griffin said.
"The profitable, sustainable carriers today are low-cost carriers," Griffin said. "Since we compete with low-cost carriers on price, it is essential that we compete with them on distribution costs."
Customer fees
The new fees apply to customers booking through reservation centers, at the airport or with travel agents who use global distribution systems. It will be up to the travel agent whether that cost is passed on to the consumer, Eagan-based Northwest said.
Global distribution systems -- the major ones are Worldspan, Sabre, Galileo and Amadeus -- list the fares of competing airlines from lowest to highest so travel agents can quickly determine price differences.
"It's obvious they're trying to discourage GDS as a source of booking. The GDS's are the only true, honest source of airfares," said Terry Trippler, a consumer advocate in Minneapolis with the Internet travel search engine "If all airlines start going in that direction, we're losing consumer choice."
Northwest, however, said travel agents will be able to issue tickets at no cost through worldagentdirect.-com, a site that serves travel agents instead of the general public. An estimated 8,000 travel agents have signed up for, Northwest said.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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