Q –  3.12.22 – I have to say that I was rather shocked to come across your traveltruth site and then your other consumer sites. Great job! I am a VP of Sales for a Fortune 500 firm. Over the past four years, I’ve been traveling constantly while also taking cruise vacations and two trips to Hawaii along with separate tours I booked to France and a memorable trip to Egypt with Insight that included a Nile Cruise.

Here’s the thing. I have to submit receipts and I keep careful notes. I have flown well over a million miles on Delta and United. I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars at hotels and on six cruises and two expensive escorted tours. And not once did I ever use a travel agent! I booked everything myself. I suppose that is just because I am so used to doing it myself.

Now, I start reading your site and I realize that I have been duped into paying the travel agent commission of “10-15%” even though I’ve spent weeks of my life on hold with call centers to book direct. I calculate that I am owed close to $20,000 in pocketed commissions set aside for the travel agent I never used. I want that money returned to me. 

I’ve read your advice as to how to proceed to recover the commission these companies simply pocket because we consumers are so ignorant. But I am not at all sure how the system works in terms of recovering commissions kept by airlines or car rental firms, as well as hotels. I would really appreciate some feedback about getting the refunds back from those three entities.

I know that I was ripped off by the tour companies and cruise lines and I am pursuing the refund of the agent commissions in those cases. Fortunately, per your suggestions, I have saved all my paperwork. Thanks so much for revealing the travel industry’s dirty little secret.

A – We’ve started getting a fair amount of questions on this topic and we expect that the consumer travel press will soon pick up on it. Those who write about the travel industry but don’t actually work in it are generally unaware of this industry practice.

You cover several kinds of travel bookings in your question. Here is a summary of what you need to know:

Airlines stopped paying commissions to travel agents many years ago. Most agents survive by charging fees to process airline tickets. Pursuing a commission refund with the airlines would be both inappropriate and a waste of your time. 

Rental car firms have intricate contractual arrangements with travel providers and often commissions are not included. Again, many agents simply tack on fees for this type of transaction. Again, likely a waste of your time.

Hotels are a different story. All hotel pricing includes a travel agent commission of from 8-10%. If you are not using a travel agent, you should be entitled to a refund of the agent commission. Savvy guests always request a return of the agent commission at check-out. Do note however that refund on a direct booking will be lower for a hotel booking than it would be for the cruise or escorted tour refund which can run as high as 17%.

Cruise lines and tour firms follow the same general policies. They always include the travel agent commission in the price charged to those who book direct. That commission will normally range from 12-17%. These are funds, theoretically,  set aside for payment to travel agents for the services they provide.

All direct booking pricing always includes the travel agent commission. When you do not use a travel agent, common sense would dictate that you are entitled to have the commission taken off your invoice.

In States with strong consumer protection laws like California, New York, and Massachusetts, for instance, it is our opinion that retaining the travel agent commission when none was used, is likely a violation of consumer rights provisions in the law. But, to our knowledge, no one has ever questioned this practice legally.

That may change as consumers and the consumer press starts revealing this major industry secret and a rather extensive consumer rip-off.