ARC’s launch of its new Helix program – details of the controversial program are to be released today – drew sharp reactions from ASTA and Travel Leaders Group.
Both noted that ARC’s Helix will have to compete with strong, established brands in the market but stopped short of questioning if the ARC Helix program could violate antitrust law – charges leveled by ARTA that ARC has promptly refuted.
"In launching its Helix program, ARC faces formidable competition from established, strong and successful brands such as Vacation.com, Virtuoso, Nexion and Signature Travel," ASTA said in a statement. "While the program is aimed at ARC’s Verified Travel Consultants, it is possible that it will bring innovations to some travel agents. Failure to deliver on such opportunities though will be dealt with by market forces in an area where there is a lot of competition.
"Whether problems arise due to ARC’s special place in the air travel marketplace remains to be seen, and will be addressed if and when they come up."
Travel Leaders Group, a major force among agency consortia and franchisers, also commented on the ARC Helix program, noting the importance of neutrality in ARC’s conduct.
"As the travel agency industry's leading organization, Travel Leaders Group is confident of our ability to meet the needs of every agency and agent we already serve proudly and professionally, regardless of competition from any corner," Travel Leaders said in a statement. "Having said that, Travel Leaders Group is carefully examining ARC's Helix initiative and how it specifically relates to ARC's primary charge as the airline industry's only approved regulatory body governing airline ticketing.
"As an airline-owned company, ARC has always maintained a level of neutrality on agents, agencies and agency organizations - a position we expect them to continue unvarnished by favoritism to one group of agencies over another."
ARTA has expressed concerns that ARC’s Helix program could violate anti trust laws – a charge ARC has sharply refuted.