ASTA disagreed with a decision by the Travel Agent Arbiter (TAA) to dismiss a dispute between a travel agent and the Airlines Reporting Corp. (ARC) on the use of ARC’s Payment Express. ASTA said it will seek a legal remedy and argues that ARC cannot withdraw funds through Payment Express without an agent’s approval.
The arbiter said the TAA “lacks the authority to hear such a dispute” and therefore could not “docket a complaint nor proceed further in this matter.” The case was dismissed without prejudice, meaning that no decision was rendered on the merits of the dispute, ASTA said.
Absent a reaction from ARC or the airlines indicating their plans to discontinue these practices, ASTA said it will continue to pursue a legal remedy. All travel agents using ARC are impacted by the TAA’s decision and ARC’s action, ASTA said.
“It remains ASTA’s belief that the Agent Reporting Agreement (ARA) does not give ARC the authority to draft an agent’s ARC checking account as provided for by Payment Express and that such authority cannot be conferred on ARC by what amounts to an uncommunicated adhesion contract by one airline,” ASTA said in a statement. “ASTA respectfully and fundamentally disagrees with the Travel Agent Arbiter’s analysis and the reasoning behind this judgment. The outcome places all travel agents in the position of having no expert remedy available for what we believe to be an abuse of the relationship between travel agents and ARC.”
ASTA had supported the complaint of the travel agent against ARC with the Travel Agent Arbiter challenging ARC’s plan to withdraw funds from the agent’s ARC checking account at United Airlines’ request. In an unprecedented move, ARC sent the agent invoices using ARC Payment Express to collect payment for alleged carrier policy violations that historically would have been processed as regular debit memos in a one-to-one relation with the agent, ASTA said.
ARC Payment Express was created by ARC 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. Visit www.asta.org.