New amendments to the FAA reauthorization bill have drawn criticism from travel industry groups.
In an open letter, the Business Travel Coalition (BTC) said that an amendment requiring large online and traditional travel agents to adopt minimum customer service standards is “one hundred percent designed to set those large travel agents up for failure.”
The BTC argued that travel agents do not control airline information or have the capabilities to offer some of the requirements in the amendment, including:
- Offering refunds for tickets or unused ancillary services
- Holding ticket reservations without payment for 24 hours
- Disclosing all the airlines’ cancellation policies on a given route along with their seating configurations
- Notifying customers of itinerary changes
- Responding to customer complaints related to airline service
“Agents cannot comply with the requirements of this legislation,” the BTC wrote. “If enacted, it is so obvious that smaller agents’ costs would soar, and along with fines, too many would be forced out of business and, as such, that would sink the proposal politically. Likewise, the largest agents would not be able to comply. In addition to harmfully increasing the costs of their largest direct competitors in travel distribution, the airlines would see themselves in a position to argue that the agents’ inability to ‘adopt minimum customer service standards’ and ‘protect’ consumers represents ironclad proof that airlines should not be required to provide to agents the product and pricing information being contemplated in the paused U.S. DOT rulemaking.”
That rulemaking would require airlines to provide product and price information for tickets and ancillary services to travel agents and online travel agencies, and has been opposed by airlines, the BTC said.
The U.S. Travel Association has weighed in against another “Flags of Convenience” amendment that the organization said would make it easier to block low-cost airlines from entering the U.S. market.
“Currently, very few of these carriers serve the U.S., and this amendment limits the ability of any new competitors to establish direct international flights here,” said U.S. Travel Association EVP for Public Affairs Jonathan Grella in a written release. “This amendment directly undermines our country’s Open Skies agreements, and risks millions of American jobs by hampering efforts to make our aviation market more competitive and give flyers more choices.”
The FAA reauthorization bill would separate air traffic control from the federal government, shifting the aviation system of the United States to a private corporation governed by a board of directors with the power to impose user fees over the course of three years, according to The Hill. The bill could be considered on the floor of the House of Representatives next month.
Airline trade group Airlines for America (A4A) has weighed in in support of the proposal, saying that it would allow for the modernization of the air traffic control infrastructure to meet the growing demand for air travel.