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Final FAA Reauthorization Bill Presents Both Drawbacks and Notable Victories for Travel Advisors


Alexandria, V.A., April 29, 2024 — The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) relentlessly championed for travel advisor priorities throughout the FAA reauthorization process, and we are pleased to see some small victories appear in the final legislation. However, the language also presents some discouraging setbacks.  

Last week, the Department of Transportation (DOT) made a profound error in issuing a final rule that leaves travel agencies on the hook for providing consumers with air ticket refunds if the agency is the “merchant of record,” regardless of whether the agency is in possession of the funds. The original language in the House version of the FAA bill would have superseded this rule, clearly stating that ticket agents are not responsible for refunds when they are no longer in possession of the funds. 

“We were thankful when the House originally recognized this important distinction,” commented Zane Kerby, ASTA President and CEO. “Unfortunately, the final compromise between the House and Senate kicks this issue back to a DOT that has shown a clear lack of understanding how travel agencies book air travel.”  

The final FAA bill would require DOT to issue regulations within one year, requiring air carriers to promptly transfer funds to ticket agents where the agent is obligated to refund the consumer but is not in possession of the funds. Unfortunately, the DOT rule released last week goes into effect in six months. This leaves at least six months between the effective date of the regulations and when the new regulations will be proposed, let alone finalized. This uncertainty will cause preventable and undo financial stress on travel agency small businesses. 

The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 reauthorized the Aviation Consumer Protection Advisory Committee (ACPAC), an advisory body at DOT responsible for evaluating existing aviation consumer protection programs and providing recommendations for establishing and improving aviation consumer protection programs. ACPAC membership consists of one representative each of U.S. airlines, consumer groups, airports, and state or local governments, a small committee by federal standards. Incorporating the provisions of a standalone bill in the House (H.R. 3780), the House FAA Reauthorization bill added ticket agents to the ACPAC.  

Unfortunately, the final FAA bill only requires that the ACPAC consult with ticket agents “as appropriate.” 

“ASTA has appeared before this committee many times and recent final rules from DOT continue to show a clear lack of understanding on the role of travel agencies and advisors in booking air travel. It is disappointing that when given an opportunity to add the views of the agencies who booked 40 percent of air tickets in 2023, Congress deflected to an unenforceable consultative role,” Kerby further commented. 

On a more positive note, ASTA was the champion of a provision in the House bill that streamlines offline disclosures surrounding air travel, and we are pleased to see this provision maintained in the final bill.  

“This will reduce frustration with the air ticket purchase process and lessen the unnecessary burdens on our members’ business operations, while keeping critical consumer protection intact,” Kerby concluded. 

Finally, the legislation establishes the Passenger Experience Advisory Committee within the DOT to advise the Secretary and the FAA Administrator on improving the passenger experience in air transportation customer service. ASTA is pleased to see that ticket agents will have a voice on this committee, and we ask that the DOT establish and convene the committee in short order.



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 our mission statement.  




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