The Association of Retail Travel Agents (ARTA) and the Association of Retail Travel Agents - Canada (ARTA Canada) have jointly written to American Airlines' (AA) officials to open a dialogue regarding the current disagreement between AA, Travelport and Orbitz. Legal action was taken by both American and Travelport late last week.
Both agency associations said they are concerned that travel agents may be finding themselves in the middle of an even wider dispute which may not only have severe repercussions for the agency community, but may prompt other carriers to review their distribution mechanisms as well.
"Both ARTA and ARTA Canada have been strong proponents of reducing airline distribution costs so as to encourage more investment by carriers in remuneration programs and stronger relationships with the travel agency sales channel," the groups said in a group statement. "However, such a cost reduction must be coupled with a viable set of tools which reflect the way agencies do business and support the infrastructure which agents have built over many years."
"We know there is ever-increasing technology out there that merits a look-see to determine if there's a good fit for both agent and supplier," said Sally Watkins, vice chairman of ARTA. "We just want airlines and other suppliers to recognize that we need to work together to assure that all direct stakeholders can benefit as we make any transition to enhanced or new platforms."
ARTA and ARTA Canada also expressed concerns that the current volley of lawsuits and tough words in the press "would hopefully not be a prelude to return to 'preferred distribution channels,' $3.50 per segment penalties for using unapproved booking tools and a passing on of other booking and distribution fees to agencies."
"From new XML options leveraging superior process workflows to the growing importance of deploying and capturing ancillary products and services, we recognize that airlines want to enhance their selling and distribution platforms to embrace these important aspects of cost reduction and new revenue," the agency groups said.
"Agents have a role to play in giving airlines and other travel suppliers a clearer view of what works and what doesn't work when we sell their services," said ARTA Canada President Bruce Bishins. "We support AA's right to lower costs. We just want to be sure that it doesn't raise ours in the process."