Last updated: 01:42 PM ET, Tue January 14 2014

U.S. Travel Agents’ Airline Sales Rise Nearly 2 Percent in 2013

Travel Agent Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) James Shillinglaw January 13, 2014

U.S. Travel Agents’ Airline Sales Rise Nearly 2 Percent in 2013

It’s a common misperception among some consumers that travel agents no longer sell airline tickets, with most of the business gravitating online to the airlines themselves or to third-party travel websites.

But the Airlines Reporting Corp. (ARC), the financial settlement link between airlines and travel sellers, just issued its annual report showing that the consolidated dollar value of airline tickets sold by U.S.-based travel agencies actually increased 1.85 percent year-over-year in 2013 compared to 2012.

Ticket sales for 2013 were $86.2 billion compared with $84.5 billion in 2012, and $82.1 billion in 2011. Sales for December 2013 alone were nearly $5.3 billion, an increase of 10.7 percent compared to December 2012.

On the other hand, ticket transactions in 2013 decreased by 0.30 percent compared with 2012, while transactions in 2012 were down by 0.47 percent compared to 2011. Passenger segments in 2013 decreased 0.16 percent at 363.9 million, compared to 369.9 million in 2012 and 370.4 million in 2011.

Total domestic fares for 2013 were $36.65 billion, up just 0.76 percent, while total international fares were $32.6 billion, up 0.86 percent.

What has been increasing at a much more rapid rate are the airline fees and taxes and fees collected by travel agencies as part of their total sales. Airline fees for 2013 were $7.7 billion, up 9.89 percent, while taxes and fees were $8.9 billion, up 2.58 percent.

In December 2013 alone, total domestic fares were $2.25 billion, up 10.68 percent, while international fares were $1.99 billion, up 9.05 percent. Airline fees in December were $400.9 million, up 15.98 percent, while taxes and fees were $551 million , up 11.61 percent.

Total ARC retail locations now stand at 13,126, down significantly from their heights back in the mid-1990s when they totaled over 35,000. But many agencies have consolidated under one ARC number in order to leverage their sales with airlines. So it’s likely that ARC retail agency locations will continue to decrease in 2014.

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James Shillinglaw