Everyone should have equal access to the lowest airfares offered by major airlines, but this is not the case. Those without computers, Internet access or the ability to surf the Net are cheated out of their chance at getting the lowest possible airfares by the airlines.

Those without a major credit card with which to purchase tickets online don't have a chance at getting the lowest possible airfares on the Internet either. Passengers preferring to pay in cash are not allowed access to the lowest possible airfares on the Internet, even if they go to the airport or airline city ticket office to purchase them.

Airline employees are not allowed to sell the airfares advertised on the Internet to passengers at the ticket counter.

Travel agents, who will accept a check, cash or credit card, are not paid a commission on Internet bookings by the airlines and are forced into the position of telling passengers "sorry" when it comes to getting the lowest possible airfares online.

The airlines have drastically cut commissions paid to travel agents, forcing thousands out of business. Airlines have cut commissions below the hard costs of writing airline tickets in an attempt to take travel agents out of the loop and control the channels of distribution. Travel agents must now charge a ticket processing fee or transaction fee of $15-$20 per ticket just to stay in business.

The airlines were in serious financial trouble before Sept. 11. Taxpayers have been called upon to bail out the airlines to the tune of billions. Perhaps it's time to demand fairer business practices by the airlines, or more government control.

Chris Lambert

South Jordan