Is the death of the independent travel agent around the corner?Thousands of American travel agencies will today stage a two-hour shutdown in protest at the major airlines cutting commissions on the flights they sell. The agencies claim websites like Orbitz.com and major carriers such as AA (American Airlines) have helped slash commissions on tickets and now they can barely make any profit. Some of the travel bookers will also hold pickets at major airports including New York City, Newark and Miami to further their plight. It is believed booking online has been a major contributor in a 21 per cent reduction in the number of travel agencies in the United States since 1997. Just two weeks ago American Airlines said it would cap commissions at $20 for a return flight, from $50 previously. Airlines including Continental, Delta, Northwest, and United quickly followed suit. Industry analysts estimate the cuts could save the airline industry up to $500m annually in distribution costs.