ASTA has followed up on its initial alert to travel agents on the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) decision to discontinue its Payment Express program. The follow-up alert offers more details and notes that the ARC policy change includes the automated collection of carrier fees and charges for alleged booking violations, inactive segments and GDS opt-outs. Payment Express allowed ARC to draft agents' accounts without specific authorization for alleged violations of airline booking policy.
ARC has advised ASTA that it will stop accepting new debit memos in the Payment Express program within the next few days and will not place an agent in general default for failure to pay these debit memos, but will return such cases to the individual airline for action.
“According to ARC, it expects Memo Manager, its electronic debit memo management tool that was introduced last year, to facilitate the resolution and collection of segment fees and booking charges formerly billed under Payment Express, as well as the collection of debits related to the ARC Agent Reporting Agreement, such as unreported sales and credit card charge backs," ASTA said. "ARC assures, however, that under the collection function of Memo Manager, the travel agent will initiate the payment.”
ARC Payment Express was created in 2006 as an easy way to collect booking fees for agents who elected not to opt-in to the GDS's new full content programs. “ARC had since expanded its use of Payment Express to include the automated collection of GDS booking violation fees,” ASTA said.
ASTA adamantly disagreed with ARC's use of Payment Express and filed an appeal with the Travel Agent Arbiter but he declined jurisdiction.
“ASTA has consistently urged agents with objections to these claims to present them to the carrier within the required time limits and to inform ARC that it does not have the agent's consent to draft these items from its ARC bank account," ASTA said. "ARC has acknowledged the impact of ongoing travel agent feedback in its decision to discontinue Payment Express.”