Their slogan was "travel agents do it for free." But that was a decade ago, when commissions were fat and clientele were mostly the elite.
Today, commission caps and the impact of online sales have forced travel agents to "do it" for a fee, and some have even traded their corporate venues for in-home ventures.

Until about ten years ago, airlines would pay agents a sliding-scale commission of 10%-20% per airline ticket, depending on the contract the agent had with the airline.

But more recently, in a not-so-subtle effort to curb expenses, airlines "started capping commissions at 8%, and then 5%. Now we are at 0% commissions," says Arlene Blosch, proprietor of Travel Wizards, now a home-based operation.

Why the commission crunch? "Since the early 1990s, the industry has gone through two cycles of billion-dollar losses. In the past five years, airlines have lost about $40 billion, so they need to cut costs," says TheStreet.com's airlines reporter Ted Reed.

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