Travel agents might boycott Emirates

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 June, 2008, 12:00am

Hong Kong's travel agents have been urged to stop doing business with Emirates Airline next week to protest against cuts in their commissions.

If the boycott goes ahead, customers would not be able to make bookings or get information about Emirates flights from the city's 1,400 travel agents for a week from Tuesday and would be referred to other carriers. Existing reservations would not be affected.

The airline flies from Hong Kong to Bangkok and Dubai.

Emirates is reducing agency commissions to 5 per cent from 7 per cent from Tuesday.

The boycott was discussed at a meeting yesterday of the eight representatives of associations belonging to the Travel Industry Council, which regulates local travel agencies. If the situation does not improve, an extraordinary general meeting will be held by the middle of next month to decide what further action to take.

Emirates vice-president for Hong Kong and China Edwin Lau Wing-chu described the move as unfortunate.

Council chairman Ronnie Ho Pak-ting said it was difficult to estimate the financial impact of a one-week boycott, but he said cutting commissions was a global trend and 'bound to happen'.

'The travel industry is just trying to defer the inevitable but how long can we keep doing this?' Mr Ho said. 'Even if we succeed against Emirates this month, another airline might take similar action next month.'

Airlines are under increasing pressure to contain ballooning costs tied to soaring jet fuel prices. Mr Ho said travel agents were not prepared for the more competitive environment but needed to adapt.

Travel agents fear the cuts by Emirates will encourage other airlines to follow suit. But one industry source said few travel agents were likely to join the boycott as they could not afford to turn away business.