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United delays credit card fee shift for 60 days

/ Source: The Associated Press

United Airlines has delayed for up to two months a plan to force some travel agencies to pay the credit-card fees of customers who charge their tickets, a cost that is currently borne by the airline.

United says the change, which was to take effect Monday, targeted only 28 agencies out of thousands. Spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said it "was in no way intended to be a market-wide move."

Urbanski added that more than 100 travel agencies, including some online sites, already use their own credit card accounts and presumably incur the merchant fees.

The American Society of Travel Agents fears that United will eventually broaden the policy of shifting fees and that other airlines will follow suit. Travel agents say the policy will drive more customers away from them and toward the airline's own Web site.

The trade group lobbied Congress and the Obama administration, and at least 13 members of the House wrote to United and expressed concern about how the fee proposal would affect travel agents and consumers.

Credit card companies typically charge merchants between 2 percent and 3 percent of the transaction amount per card swipe, and currently United pays the fee. The Chicago-based airline, a unit of UAL Corp., said it spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year on the fees.