Two months after global distribution systems reduced incentive payments to agencies, many buyers still are embroiled in negotiations, likely to continue for months, as to the subsequent fees that agencies will charge them.

Aside from contractual issues and a reticence to welcome any cost increase, the major sticking point for many buyers is the lack of transparency in agency costs and revenue streams that make them and their senior managers question whether they are being asked to pay a fair amount.

Buyers are unhappy with the way they have been left out of the discussion about bearing these additional costs, with little more in return than assurances that they will have access to full airline inventory for the next several years. With clients of agencies other than American Express seeing Amex claiming to hold their colleagues harmless from these charges, the new financial terms are prompting many to consider the possibilities of bypassing GDSs through direct deals or at the very least seeking fee customization from their agency.

After GDSs said they would reduce agency incentives, following their airline negotiations, mega agency Carlson Wagonlit Travel and a few others announced they would charge a flat transaction fee. Other TMCs are handling negotiations individually.

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