ASTA Wants DOT Guidance on Hazardous Materials Rule

A proposed Department of Transportation (DOT) rule that prohibits carriers, and their agents, from completing a ticket purchase until the purchaser affirmatively indicates that they understands the restrictions on hazardous materials in baggage, has ben questioned by ASTA. ASTA is concerned with the costs and complexity of the rules. 

In a letter to Cynthia L. Quarterman, Administrator of the U.S. DOT's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) ASTA  requested that the PHMSA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) answer industry stakeholders’ unanswered questions regarding PHMSA’s pending Hazardous Materials Notification rule.

"The January 1, 2013 deadline is fast approaching and the industry has received no guidance from either the FAA or the PHMSA, and there remain many unanswered questions," said ASTA President and interim CEO, Nina Meyer

“While the regulation may seem simple to the FAA and the PHMSA, it presents huge economic burdens (estimated at $24 million start-up plus $27 million annually) and process issues for the travel agency industry, which is why it is so important that the industry’s concerns be addressed immediately. Alternatively, if more time is needed, an extension should be communicated to the industry," Meyer said.

ASTA cited several unanswered questions to PHMSA Administrator Quarterman including:

Does the rule apply to corporate/government transactions (B2B), consumer bookings (B2C) or both?

What is the scope of the rule? Does it apply to flights sold by travel agents outside the US for travel to/within the US? Does the rule apply to flights with only a stopover in the US?

With oral disclosure, what is the suggested oral disclosure script and what should be asked when obtaining the required “acknowledgement?” Is ASTA’s proposed oral script acceptable?

Can a concession be made for road warriors (repeat travelers), such as by having the customer sign or electronically accept an acknowledgement form so that the disclosure does not need to be made with every transactions?

Are the GDSs required to inhibit ticketing until the travel agent affirms that the acknowledgement has been collected? Are the GDSs prepared to meet the January 1, 2013 deadline?

ASTA said it sent its members an alert outlining travel agents’ compliance obligation as interpreted from the regulation after meeting with the FAA and the PHMSA on August 16. ASTA said it will continue to monitor and provide guidance as new information is obtained.