Airline ancillary fees, independent contractors and aviation security are the the major concerns of ASTA in its analysis of the effects of the 2012 election results on agents and the industry.
In an advisory to members, ASTA said the election – President Obama reelected, a Democratic Senate and a Republican House -- makes it possible to estimate how the election results will affect ASTA’s federal priorities and ASTA members.
ASTA's priorities include:
• Airline Ancillary Fees: The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is due to release a notice of proposed rulemaking on January 29, 2013 that will address, among other things, whether to give consumers and the travel agents who serve them full access to airline ancillary services. This target date remains unchanged as of this writing. Were there to be a change in Administration, there likely would have been a full-stop on all new regulations and thus DOT action on ancillary fees would have been delayed for some time. As things stands, DOT remains on track and ASTA will spare no effort to ensure that the interests of our members are fully protected in this process, ASTA said.
• Independent Contractors: Motivated by the belief that there is widespread “misclassification” of employees as independent contractors (ICs) and that employers and ICs aren’t paying their fair share of taxes, the Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats have long been threatening to crack down on independent contracting. This is a critical issue for our industry, as an estimated 9,500 contractors work in the industry and 61 percent of ASTA members use at least one IC. While the House of Representatives remains in Republican hands and thus the chances of anti-IC legislation being enacted are slim, the Administration may elect to use its administrative powers to move forward with a crackdown through agencies like the Internal Revenue Services and the Department of Labor. Working with the Coalition to Protect Independent Entrepreneurs, ASTA will vigilantly monitor both the legislative and executive branches and fight back against such a crackdown, if it occurs.
• Aviation Security: A Republican sweep in this election could have meant major changes to the aviation security system in this country, which travel agents and their clients are intimately familiar with. The Republican platform called for “the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), its procedures, and much of its personnel …to be changed,” and for “the private sector to take over airport screening wherever feasible.” As it is, we expect more of a status quo with regard to aviation security, and incremental, rather than wholesale, changes. As this issue remains in the spotlight in Washington, ASTA said it will work to protect members’ interests and to push for pro-consumer steps like expanding TSA’s PreCheck and Customs’ Global Entry trusted traveler programs.
ASTA expressed appreciation for members’ support for ASTA’s political action committee, ASTAPAC. "A strong PAC helped us to both make an impact on the election on behalf of our industry and position ourselves well for the battles to come," ASTA said.