ASTA is calling the situation "chaos." Travel agents and many suppliers that book air themselves are befuddled and face significant increases in costs and hits on their profitability. GDSs are struggling to respond as major domestic airlines once again fall in lock-step with a move set off by another major carrier.

I'm talking, of course, about the imposition of fees ($3.50 per segment), begun by American Airlines, on most airline tickets booked through the traditional GDS, which is once again putting agents, reservations systems, and airlines at odds. My colleague Kate Rice wrote eloquently about this latest sea change in the way airline tickets are booked, which is fast approaching the elimination of travel agent airline commissions in its potential effect on the travel agency trade.

I've hesitated to write a column on this topic, mostly because there are still a few acts left to go in this latest drama for travel agents, airlines and GDS vendors. Indeed, everyone is waiting for the proverbial "other shoe" to drop, namely whether American and Sabre can finally come to some kind of agreement. The odd thing is, of course, that American once owned Sabre (the old adage "they only eat their young" comes to mind).

As we go to press, American and Sabre were still sparring. American reportedly had written a letter to its corporate customers arguing that its new booking fees policy was due primarily to economics and certain data privacy principles, refuting Sabre's contention that the GDS is protecting travel agency rights and full content. American claims the agreements it has reached with Sabre's competitors extend the rights and privileges that agencies currently enjoy and guarantee full content.

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