ARTA Expects Headway on Airline Ancillary Fees

washington dcThrough negotiation, airlines and GDSs can come to terms on ancillary fees and Department of Transportation (DOT) intervention can only serve to muddy the water, the Association of Retail Travel Agents (ARTA) said in a presentation to the DOT Advisory Committee on Aviation Consumer Protection held in Washington.

“ARTA's mandate is to assure a balanced approach, leading to consumer protection which makes good sense," ARTA said. Regarding ancillaries, ARTA said there is "No need for government intervention."

ARTA also suggested to the committee that as two parallel investigations were already underway at the Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding GDS matters, that the DOT might wish to hold off on making any GDS rulemaking before this is resolved.

ARTA said it is firmly convinced that airlines and GDSs are negotiating positive results: "Most noticeably with Delta Air Lines including its premium economy in Amadeus and the Air Canada's inclusion of its direct connect product and content in Travelport."

The August 7 meeting was the second, with another committee meeting planned in September.

Among the key points ARTA made in its presentation:

 - that DOT will adopt minimum customer-service standards in relation to the sales by travel agents of air transportation and the disclosure of trade practices including incentives and commissions;

- that travel agents will be held accountable by the DOT when some data or display fault lies with GDSs beyond the agents' control;

- that the DOT will regulate content and other functionality that are subject to commercial negotiations between airlines and third party travel technology providers, including GDSs;

-ARTA members do not want the DOT to promulgate regulations of what content and functionality should be in the GDSs;

- Airlines and GDSs (just as other travel technology providers) should themselves comes to terms as part of commercial negotiations;

- ARTA members do not want any terms mandated by the DOT which could impact their contractual obligations which may prompt GDSs to charge increased fees to subscribers.

"Let the marketplace dictate what content is available for sale or functionality,"ARTA said. Bruce Bishins, ARTA's Managing Director, made the presentation.