ARC Proposes Fee Hike, Prompts Anger From ASTA

The Airlines Reporting Corp. is proposing raising its participation fee for agencies and corporate travel departments from $145 to $395 in 2008. This fee would be administered per independent or home office location. Agencies also would incur $150 per branch and STP locations (currently $145) and a quarterly transaction fee of 2 cents per transaction (currently 1.7 cents). "While the proposed increase is substantial from a percentage viewpoint, the actual dollar increase, in our view, remains modest and reasonable," the organization said in a statement.

The American Society of Travel Agents, however, begs to differ. In a statement issued Wednesday, ASTA President and CEO Cheryl Hudak said the move was one "only a monopolist could expect to pull off."

"Such an increase is unprecedented in any business and frankly, it's unconscionable," she continued. ASTA said it is examining legal options if talks between the two organizations fail to prevent such a lofty increase.

For its part, ARC also is proposing to allow accredited agents to take training classes for free in 2008 and to eliminate all charges associated with the accreditation processes. These fees range from $525 for classroom training to the $25 fee to voluntarily close a location, ARC reported.

Such a fee increase also would help ARC with the system investments it made this year, including IAR 2.0, a document retrieval service, and ARC Memo Manager, a settlement automation tool. The Arlington, VA-based organization also has plans to move its platforms off its current system to what it is calling the new "Universal Settlement System," which ARC says will allow for new settlement services and quicker responses to enhancement requests. This new system would offer such capabilities as the processing of ticketless transactions, processing of multiple currencies, real-time receipt and access to data and the processing of alternative forms of payment, like PayPal.

"There are time and cost savings from those types of products and when we look at other industry organizations, who don't have the technology infrastructure that we have to maintain; we're not charging nearly as much in comparison," an ARC spokesperson told Travel Agent.

The Fees and Charges Working Group will vote on ARC's proposal on September 18. A spokesperson for ARC said a decision on the proposal is expected in December, after ARC's board of directors reviews the plan. Visit [].