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There's no denying the complexity of travel agent commissions; the figures are nuanced, lacking clear-cut definitions or standardized practices. In essence, there's no universally accepted "average" travel agent commission. If that were the situation, we could have concluded this article already!

The travel industry has undergone significant transformations in recent years, with the rise of online booking platforms and direct consumer interactions. Amidst this evolution, travel agents continue to play a crucial role in providing personalized and curated travel experiences. 

One key aspect that often intrigues both aspiring travel agents and curious travellers is the commission structure within the industry. 

In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore the intricacies of how much commission travel agents earn in the USA across different segments of the travel industry.

The evolution of travel agent commissions

Historically, travel agents operated on a commission-based model, earning a percentage of the total booking value. However, the landscape has evolved significantly over the years. The rise of online travel agencies and direct bookings led to a shift in the commission structure, prompting many airlines and other travel service providers to reduce or eliminate commissions for agents.

Commencing around 2013, there was a notable resurgence in the number of travel agents. Concerns that the retirement of experienced agents would lead to a shortage were alleviated as a wave of new individuals entered the field, drawn by the appealing prospects of flexibility and travel perks associated with a career in travel agency.

Consider these industry statistics:

  • In 2013, as per the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), nearly 70% of the agency workforce was aged 55 or older. Moreover, the percentage of agents aged 65 and above had nearly doubled, rising from 17% to 32% over the preceding decade.
  • Consistent findings from our HAR's income surveys reveal that the median age of an agent falls in the early to mid-50s, with a majority opting to work from home. (In 2022, the median age stood at 55).

Did you catch that? We transitioned from having 70% of the workforce aged over 55 in 2013 to having 50% of the workforce under 55 in 2022! While ASTA and HAR tend to attract different demographics — ASTA traditionally encompassing larger, retail storefronts, and HAR typically representing smaller, non-storefront agencies — the trend is unmistakable. The peril of travel agents facing extinction is no longer imminent.

Current commission rates

Commission rates and salaries of travel agents in the USA can vary widely based on the type of service provided and the industry segment. It's essential to note that these rates may be subject to change, and agents should always check with their specific travel partners for the most up-to-date information.

1. Airline commissions

  • Airline commissions can vary between 0% and 22%, depending on whether the flights are domestic or international. Nevertheless, certain airlines have recently decreased or removed commissions, leading agents to impose service fees directly on clients or shift their focus to alternative revenue sources.
  • Some carriers, particularly low-cost airlines, may not provide any commission, while traditional carriers might offer a reduced rate.

2. Cruise commissions

  • Cruise lines often maintain a more traditional commission model, with agents earning a percentage of the total cruise fare.
  • Commissions for cruise bookings can range from 10% to 16%, depending on the cruise line, the type of cabin booked, and other factors.

3. Hotel commissions

  • Hotel commissions can vary widely and may depend on the specific hotel or hotel chain.
  • It's not uncommon for travel agents to earn commissions ranging from 8% to 15% on hotel bookings.

4. Tour and package commissions

  • Commissions for tour packages and vacation packages can vary based on the tour operator or travel company.
  • Agents may earn commissions ranging from 10% to 20% or more for booking comprehensive tour packages.

Service fees and ancillary income

In response to changes in commission structures, many travel agents have diversified their revenue streams. Some agents charge service fees, which can be a flat rate or a percentage of the total booking value. Additionally, agents may earn commissions through partnerships with travel insurance providers, ground transportation services, and other ancillary products.

Negotiating commission rates

Successful travel agents often engage in negotiations with travel suppliers to secure favorable commission rates. Building strong relationships with industry partners and demonstrating a high volume of bookings can provide agents with leverage to negotiate better commission terms.

Adaptation and diversification

In response to changes in commission structures, many travel agents have adapted by diversifying their revenue streams. Some have embraced service fees, charging clients for the expertise and personalized service they provide. Additionally, agents may earn commissions through partnerships with travel insurance providers, ground transportation services, and other ancillary products.

Commission structures of companies in travel industry 

Here are two general examples:

1. Expedia

Expedia typically charges hotels a commission based on a percentage of the total booking amount. The commission percentage can vary, but it's often in the range of 15% to 20%. Expedia provides a platform for hotels to list their rooms and manages the booking process, including payment processing. In return, Expedia earns a commission for each successful booking made through its platform.

Some OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) may offer tiered commission structures, where hotels that provide a higher volume of rooms might negotiate a lower commission rate.

2. Virtuoso

Virtuoso is a network of luxury travel advisors who work with high-end clientele. Travel advisors in the Virtuoso network often earn commissions on the travel products they sell, including hotels, cruises, and tours. 

The commission rates can vary based on the specific travel supplier and the negotiated agreements between the travel advisor and the supplier. In addition to commissions, some travel advisors charge their clients service fees for the personalized planning and concierge services they provide.

Traditional travel agencies often earn commissions by booking flights, hotels, and other travel services on behalf of clients.

Similarly, hotels and other service providers may offer commissions to travel agents for booking accommodations and services for their clients. These commissions can also vary based on factors like the volume of bookings and the specific agreements between the travel agent and the service provider.


While the travel agent commission landscape in the USA has seen significant changes, opportunities for earning remain. Agents need to stay informed about the evolving industry trends, negotiate favorable commission rates with travel partners, and explore additional revenue streams to ensure a sustainable and thriving business.

As the travel industry continues to evolve, the role of travel agents remains pivotal, offering the expertise and personalized service that online platforms often cannot match. By navigating the nuances of commission structures, travel agents can continue to play a vital role in creating memorable travel experiences for their clients.


Here are some frequently asked questions about how much commission travel agents make.

Are travel agents commission based?

Yes, many travel agents earn commissions as a significant part of their income. Travel agents typically receive commissions from the travel suppliers, such as airlines, hotels, cruise lines, and tour operators, for the bookings they make on behalf of their clients. 

The commission structure can vary widely based on the type of travel product, the specific supplier, and the agreements in place between the travel agent and the supplier.

What determines the commission rate for travel agents?

Commission rates for travel agents can vary and are often negotiated between the travel agent and the travel supplier (such as hotels, airlines, cruise lines, etc.). The rates may depend on factors like the volume of business, the type of travel products sold, and the agreements in place.

Do travel agents earn a commission on all bookings?

Not necessarily. While many travel agents earn commissions on bookings, the structure can vary. Some agents may earn commissions on certain types of bookings (e.g., hotels, tours), while others may charge service fees for certain services.

How much commission do travel agents typically earn?

Commission rates can range widely. In the airline industry, for example, commissions have been reduced significantly over the years, and agents may rely more on service fees. For hotels and other travel products, commission rates may range from a few percent to more significant percentages.

Do travel agents charge clients additional fees?

Yes, some travel agents charge clients service fees in addition to earning commissions. These fees can cover the agent's time and expertise in planning and booking the trip.

Are there differences in commission structures for online travel agencies (OTAs) and traditional travel agencies?

Yes, there can be differences. Traditional travel agencies may have more flexibility in negotiating commission rates with suppliers, while OTAs often have standard commission structures. OTAs may also rely on other revenue streams, such as advertising and booking fees.

How has the commission structure for travel agents changed over time?

The travel industry has seen changes in commission structures, especially with the rise of online booking platforms. Many airlines have reduced or eliminated commissions, leading travel agents to adapt by incorporating service fees or focusing on other travel products.

Do travel agents earn commissions on travel insurance?

Yes, travel agents may earn commissions on travel insurance sales. The commission rates can vary depending on the insurance provider and the agreement between the agent and the insurance company.

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Nagma Nasim

Nagma Nasim

Nagma is a content writer who creates informative articles, blogs, & other engaging content. In her free time, you can find her immersed in academic papers, novels, or movie marathons.