By
Paul Nelson

WORLDCHOICE,
Advantage and Midconsort have unceremoniously dumped Irish Ferries as a
preferred partner after it slashed some commission rates by more than 50%.

The
move will be seen as a warning to other operators against slashing commission
for their members.

Irish
Ferries will cut commission for port-to-port travel by more than 50% to just 5%
from January 1. Commission rates for package holiday bookings remain unchanged.

Worldchoice
chairman and managing director Colin Heal said its previous commission rate
from Irish Ferries was 13%. Advantage refused to reveal its previous rate but
it is believed to be similar to the Worldchoice agreement. Midconsort said
rates had been cut by “at least half”.

The
consortia have now switched their attention to Stena Line, which operates
similar routes.

Heal
said: “The cut to 5% is unjustified and useless to our members. It is not
an airline – our members would be unable to charge the customer a service fee. Commission
cuts will not be put up with,” said Heal.

Irish
Ferries passenger manager Daragh O’Reilly defended the move stating it was
essential to compete with the airline industry.

“We
had no choice as we are facing extreme competition from both no-frills and
traditional carriers,” he said.

Midconsort
chief executive Charles Eftichiou said: “We’re not standing for it. To compare
Irish Ferries’ product with the airlines is a very poor argument.”