ASTA Seeks to Overturn Hazardous Materials Passenger Notification Rule

washington dcThe American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has filed a petition with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to rescind regulations (49 CFR 175.25 b) effective Jan. 1, 2015.

Those regulations will restrict a travel agent from issuing an airline ticket until he or she verbally provides the hazardous materials (“hazmat”) disclosure and the purchaser affirmatively indicates an understanding of the disclosure. Alternatively, ASTA asks the government to allow the notification be provided on the electronic invoice.

“These regulations, intended to bring the U.S. into harmony with the rest of the world by requiring hazmat notifications to be included with online transactions, don’t make sense for over-the-phone or in-person transactions and will impose a costly and redundant burden on travel agents and the airline ticketing process generally,” said Zane Kerby, ASTA’s President and CEO. “We look forward to working with DOT, our members and other aviation stakeholders to ensure that the ticketing process does not unnecessarily become more complex than it already is.”

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ASTA said many ticket purchases are made by persons other than the traveler, or are made by frequent travelers who are aware of the hazardous materials rules. “Repeating this federally-mandated disclosure, when it serves no real purpose, is wasteful," said Kerby. "It is sufficient, we believe, to provide the disclosure and to obtain the traveler’s acknowledgement when the boarding entitlement document, such as the boarding pass, is requested by the traveler online or at an airport kiosk."

If, however, the government feels that an additional layer of passenger notification is called for, ASTA’s alternative – disclosure through e-ticket confirmation – is a much better way to go, the organizatiion said.

In 2011, FAA and PHMSA, sub-agencies of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), issued a final regulation, effective Jan. 2013, that restrict “aircraft operators” from completing a ticket purchase, regardless of booking channel, until the purchaser affirmatively indicates that he/she understands the restrictions on hazardous materials in baggage.

Because the regulation applies to all passengers, travel agents and their clients will be impacted when booking air travel.  So in October 2012, ASTA asked FAA/PHMSA to push back the Jan. 1, 2013 effective date, and FAA/PHMSA agreed. The effective date is now Jan. 1, 2015.

In its petition, ASTA argues that the government failed to provide, as is required by law, a small business economic impact analysis with its initial rulemaking. ASTA has calculated that the regulations will cost the travel agency industry, which is predominantly small business, more than $58 million in initial training, programming, and disclosure and acknowledgement capture costs and $26 million per year in ongoing compliance costs.

As an alternate to this regulation, ASTA submitted that FAA/PHMSA replace the phone notice regulation with a disclosure requirement similar to the existing DOT regulation on baggage fee disclosure using e-ticket confirmations.

ASTA said it plans to work with members of the U.S. Congress, regulatory entities like the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy and other policymakers to modify this rule. It also said it will call for member grassroots engagement where appropriate.

A copy of ASTA’s full petition can be found here. www.asta.org/files/FileDownloads/ASTA%20Petition%20for%20Rulemaking%202014_1395774525175_1.pdf

 

 

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