Travel agents are one of the most important players in the travel industry. Even with the ability to purchase airline tickets on the web, many consumers wisely choose to book travel through an agent because they can often get the best rates and routes for their customers. In addition, booking through a travel agent can often be useful in case plans change in the middle of a trip or when emergencies arise. The majority of travel agents’ income is from commissions they receive directly from the airline. Typically, a travel agent receives a certain percentage of the base rate for an airline ticket.
However, it appears that many, if not most, airlines manipulate that rate by hiding part of the base rate in fuel service charges. All travelers are familiar with airline’s attempt to deceptively add on to the price of a ticket by adding a “fuel surcharge.” What many do not know is that, as reported by the LA Times, those fuel surcharges do not reflect actual changes in fuel prices. Not only do fuel surcharges sometimes amount to a 50% increase on ticket prices, but the LA Times reports that, since April 2011, fuel surcharges by U.S. airlines have risen 53%, while fuel prices have increased 24%. The result is that travel agents are being cheated on a substantial part of their commissions because airlines improperly call part of the base rate a “fuel surcharge.”
We are investigating a potential class action on behalf of U.S. travel agents. If you are a travel agent, or own an agency, and would like to discuss your legal options, please contact us.