Eben Peck, Executive Vice President of Advocacy for the American Society of Travel Advisors, testified before the Aviation Consumer Protection Advisory Committee at the U.S. Department of Transportation on December 8th, 2022.
In August of 2022, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) published a proposed rule on ancillary airline ticket fees. While ASTA has always supported consumer protections, many provisions of this proposal are concerning and include language that would, in some cases, unduly force travel agencies to provide fee disclosures in a way that would harm the advisor's business.
To help advocate on behalf of travel advisors, ASTA EVP Eben Peck went to Washington, D.C. to testify before the Aviation Consumer Protection Advisory Committee on December 8th, 2022.
ASTA members can view his testimony in full, here.
Peck made it clear to the committee that his testimony was in representation of ASTA's 17,000 member companies—travel agencies of all shapes and sizes—and that travel advisors are fully in support of broader consumer protections, calling the proposed rule, "a step in the right direction in that it requires airlines to provide travel agencies with ancillary fee information that is 'usable, accurate and accessible in real time' and requires transactability for some ancillary services, namely, those that enable family seating."
The issue is not the disclosures themselves, but rather "the effect the requirement to disclose fees for multiple services in each and every “offline” transaction—even to repeat customers and frequent fliers—will have on agency operations."
From an operations perspective, many of these disclosures could be provided by the airlines directly to consumers through Global Distribution Systems (GDS). The proposed rule sought guidance on whether or not airlines should be required to provide that information through the GDS process, and ASTA and its advisors believe unequivocally that it should.
“Travel agencies…have invested heavily to integrate GDS processing into the agencies’ back office and mid-office accounting, quality control and security systems. Agency sales shares alone, as substantial as they are, do not fully measure the reliance of travel agencies on GDS technology. Agency integration investments are estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars. If travel agencies are excluded from the ancillary fee information flow through the tools upon which they principally rely, much of this investment will have to be duplicated so that agents can continue meeting the needs of their clients. In the best of circumstances this will take many years and much disruption to accomplish.”
"I’m not sure what is to be gained by excluding them... Airlines should transmit ancillary fee data to ticket agents to empower these disclosures, full stop."