After hitting a 14-year high in 2019, passenger commissions paid by U.S. airlines to travel agencies bottomed out in 2020 along with passenger volumes, and stayed low through the first nine months of last year. The pandemic also changed the passenger mix, as mainly domestic leisure passengers made for a lower-value booking environment. Lower-value bookings generate smaller commissions, if any.

The altered mix affected the big three U.S. airlines in different ways. Delta and United were more exposed to . . .

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