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Agents fight airlines with samosas, roses

Agents fight airlines with samosas, roses
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First Published: Tue, Jul 15 2008. 12 00 AM IST
Updated: Tue, Jul 15 2008. 12 00 AM IST
Mumbai: On Monday, some travel agents decided to take their fight with Jet Airways (India) Ltd to an entirely new level—with samosas.
The agents, protesting the decision by Jet and other airlines, both Indian and international, to end from October this year a 5% commission paid on sale of tickets, sent at least a hundred boxes of samosas to the sales office of India’s largest private carrier in south Mumbai.
The airlines are doing so to cut losses. India’s airlines lost around $1 billion (Rs4,280 crore today) in 2007-08 and expect to lose almost double that this year, a consequence of soaring fuel costs. Passenger traffic, too, has begun to decline. In June, the number of passengers fell around 3% against the same month last year.
In most countries, agents earn no commission on tickets.
It is unlikely that the fried pastry containing vegetables, or meat has been used as a weapon before—not unless the idea is to kill someone with an overdose of cholesterol.
The agents also sent letters to the company, each saying that they had taken to selling samosas. “Please accept a sample of delicious samosas, which is a new line of business we are getting into, after our travel agency days are over...,” said one letter.
The letters also said the agents would offer one samosa free for every 10 that the airline bought, “with no other hidden costs or surcharges”, a reference to the fuel and other surcharges on air tickets that are levied by airlines.
The packets of samosas and the letters were addressed to Sonu Kriplani, vice-president (sales) at Jet Airways. Jet Airways spokesperson said she was not aware of the samosa protest, but an executive, who did not wish to be identified at the airline’s sales office, confirmed that the airline had received around 100 packets of samosas.
It wasn’t immediately clear how the airline dealt with the samosa blitz.
A representative for an agents body claimed cutting commissions for agents end up being counter-productive. “For an airline to blame agents for its losses is the most foolish argument I have come across. They are surviving because of us—not in spite of us—and that is the message travel agents across the country wished to convey. The samosas sent to Jet Airways is only the beginning,” said Ajay Prakash, national general secretary of the Travel Agents’ Federation of India (Tafi).
Tafi and the Travel Agents’ Association of India, which represent about 80% of the 2,600-odd accredited members of the International Air Travel Association, claim they sell 85% of the airline tickets sold in India.
One agent said the protests could grow to include other innovative forms.
“This is just the beginning. We will be sending roses to other airlines. It could be National Aviation Co. of India Ltd, that runs Air India, or other domestic airlines. In the coming days, you could see a lot of Gandhigiri from us,” said a travel agent, who does not want to be named.
Gandhigiri, which roughly translates as Gandhi’s way, is a term made popular by Bollywood movie Lage Raho Munnabhai, where the hero, played by Sanjay Dutt, fights several social evils with love and roses.
Still, the agents aren’t just counting on flower power.
“While going ahead with Gandhigiri, we may also resort to dharnas (sit-ins) and negotiations. We may boycott airlines or close our shops for a week. As a last resort, we may also stop pending payments to airlines,” added the agent.
He said the agents planned to take the airlines to court for doing away with the commission.
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First Published: Tue, Jul 15 2008. 12 00 AM IST
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