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ASTA Urges Congress to Act on Airline Crisis

June 27, 2008 By: George Dooley

The negative effect the current airline crisis is having on leisure and business travel, as well as the travel agency industry, was underscored by testimony by American Society of Travel Agents' Senior Vice President of Legal and Industry Affairs Paul Ruden, Esq. Ruden testified at a House Committee on Small Business hearing on "How the Air Transportation Crisis is Hurting Travelers, Entrepreneurs and the Economy."

Ruden highlighted two worrisome developments including additional ticket restrictions and checked baggage fees that illustrate the troubling direction of the airline industry. He also applauded new measured proposed by the Secretary of Transportation to address key issues.

“The unfortunate truth is that the short-term outlook for passenger aviation is not encouraging," Ruden said. "Two recent examples illustrate the troubling direction of the industry. First, since May 1, nearly every major carrier has made significant changes to its fees on checked baggage ... From the perspective of travel agents, such practices come with an added burden: that of monitoring and mastering a Byzantine set of new and overlapping policies and policy revisions so as to be able to apprise customers of what to expect when traveling.”

Another troubling practice cited by Ruden, is that of creeping ticketing restrictions. “As these practices continue, so too will the already dire erosion in goodwill and trust between carriers and the traveling public. Viewed in light of what the FAA projects to be an increase in the number of U.S. passengers from the current 689 million to 1.1 billion per year in 2025, the convergence of these industry practices paints a frankly bleak picture.

“It is clear that the system as it stands is not able to accommodate current passenger levels to a satisfactory degree of service, and is far from equipped to keep pace with these projected increases. Moreover, amid the current economic slowdown, a preventable loss to the economy of $67 billion is nothing short of scandalous. ASTA has been at the forefront of calls to reform the passenger air system for years. We believe that the case for reform has never been more urgent or more plainly warranted than it is now.”

Ruden urged Congress to “rise to this considerable challenge and to set in place reforms that will inject some measure of good sense and accountability to the current system before it worsens further.”


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