ARTA and ASTA Clash Over DOT Baggage Fee Policy

Reflecting some of the current divisions among travel agents over airline baggage fees, the Association of Retail Travel Agents (ARTA) issued a statement expressing "surprise" at a press release issued by the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) regarding agency access to airline baggage allowances and fees.

"ASTA has filed a petition with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) wherein it states, in part, that agencies would endure huge costs and gross inefficiencies if travel agents were forced to collect, organize and possibly direct consumers to airline web sites, via hyperlinks or otherwise, where baggage information and pricing would likely reside," ARTA said.

"ASTA goes on to say that the airlines are resisting providing any automated data which might solve this problem and assure its accuracy. Its press release also states that 'a requirement that airlines provide ancillary fee information to travel agencies through GDSs, [thus] all of the issues involving massive manual labor, error-prone procedures and risk of inaccuracies will be eliminated,"' ARTA said.

"However, neither its press release nor its DOT filing make any mention of the fact that more than 280 airlines are already delivering baggage allowances and/or fee data to various automated solutions provided by the Airline Tariff Publishing Company (ATPCO), which in turn has provided a wide variety of data services and distribution to all sales channels including GDSs and online travel agencies. These efforts are in accordance with IATA Resolution 302 which has been approved with conditions by the DOT," ARTA said in its analysis.

"ARTA has been monitoring the ATPCO solutions for baggage allowance and fee data collection and distribution for well over a year now. GDSs have access to all of this data and can provide programming and enhancements to facilitate DOT's requirements on baggage details, fees, ticketing, and confirmations. ASTA's statements do not reflect the vast efforts that ATPCO and the industry are making to deliver these solutions to GDSs, travel agents, online travel sites, and all other major sales channels", said ARTA Managing Director Bruce Bishins.

ATPCO is a founding member and ARTA and ARTA Canada are allied members of the Open AXIS Group, an organization leading the way in enhancing travel distribution, providing cost-effective direct connect options, and improving the airline customer offer and experience, ARTA said.

ARTA explained, "ARTA is concerned that ASTA's comments are more about expanding other ancillary fee data to the GDSs which the airlines and many travel agents feel ought to be a matter of negotiation, not part of government regulations.

"ARTA is satisfied that the baggage data has been addressed by the airlines for proper distribution to agents in automated systems. It's now up to the GDSs to take that data and implement it efficiently, effectively, and expeditiously."

ARTA is headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona and is is the strategic partner of Canadian-based ARTA Canada.



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