October 19, 2016
Alexandria, VA, October 19, 2016 – American Society of Travel agents (ASTA) President & CEO Zane Kerby issues the following statement in response to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) publication last night of a new round of aviation consumer protection regulations:
“On the whole, the latest round of DOT consumer protection rules will benefit the flying public and the travel agency community who serves them. In particular, we appreciate that proposals related to code-share disclosure and online biasing conform to existing Department guidance and do not add substantial new disclosure burdens to agencies. We also applaud the Department for setting aside unwarranted proposals on disclosure of carriers marketed and not marketed in ticket agents’ online displays and of travel agency incentive payments.
“At the same time, we are disappointed that DOT is further delaying regulation on the disclosure of fees for basic ancillary services at all points of sale, an issue it has been studying for over five years. We have long urged the Department to strike a decisive blow for consumers by requiring full transparency and ‘transactability’ for airline ancillary fees.
“We strongly reject airline arguments that such regulation ‘would only benefit those third parties who distribute tickets, not the flying public.’ Travel agents advise the traveling public. Airlines and their surrogates argue that disclosing the full cost of travel is bad for the consumer. Following that logic, an airline should remove all ancillary fee information from its own website in order to better serve customers.
In the unregulated environment in which we now operate, airlines have reaped billions in ancillary fees – $18.6 billion in 2015 according to IdeaWorks. We believe in the free market, and in the airlines’ prerogative to price their services. However, withholding important information from consumers who engage the services of a professional travel agent harms the traveling public. Although airline websites have sold tickets since the 1990s, today over 50 percent of consumers purchase their air travel through a travel agent. These consumers should be as informed and empowered as those who buy directly from airlines, and while some progress has been made serious challenges remain in terms of agency access to ancillary fees.”
ASTA is in the process of analyzing DOT’s recently-unveiled package from a travel agency perspective and will be reporting out to its members in the coming days. Travel agents who wish to have access to this information are urged to join ASTA today.
More on the DOT rulemaking and associated regulatory actions can be found here.
Rebranded in 2018 as the American Society of Travel Advisors, ASTA is the leading global advocate for travel advisors, the travel industry and the traveling public. Its members represent 80 percent of all travel sold in the United States through the travel agency distribution channel. Together with hundreds of internationally-based members, ASTA’s history of industry advocacy traces back to its founding in 1931 when it launched with the mission to facilitate the business of selling travel through effective representation, shared knowledge and the enhancement of professionalism. For more information about the Society, visit ASTA.org. Consumers can connect with an ASTA travel advisor at TravelSense.org.