No Viable Alternative to ARC, Says ASTA

The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) disbanded its Alternate Airline Ticket Settlement Task Force and said that while the current settlement system was untenable, travel agents had no alternative.

In a statement, ASTA said the task force had “concluded that no alternative to the current settlement system as provided by the Airlines Reporting Corp. (ARC) was feasible unless accepted by all major air carriers and that at present there was no indication to suggest carriers would.”

"Travel agents today face a quandary when it comes to airline ticket settlement in that the current system is untenable and yet there is no viable alternative," said ASTA President and CEO Cheryl Hudak. "ARC is a monopoly—it has no competition and accordingly there are no options for an integrated airline ticket settlement system. We had hoped to lay the groundwork for an alternative settlement mechanism, but it has become clear to us that without acceptance by the legacy airlines this, for the present, is an exercise in futility."

The task force was formed last year in the wake of ARC's announcement that it would be increasing travel agents' annual fees by 172 percent. The task force met three times over the past six months, ASTA said.

ASTA said the ARC fee increase is the first of a series of fee hikes that will lead to a 500-percent fee increase paid by agents by 2011. While ASTA and other travel agency groups are represented on ARC’s advisory committee, ARC is airline owned. ARC has argued that travel agents should pay a larger share of ARC’s costs.