Travelport GDS moved to clarify a recent product advisory titled “Carrier Ticketing Fees in Worldspan” and reported that the advisory currently applies only to KLM bookings made by customers in the Netherlands because KLM is the only carrier that has decided to collect credit card fees in this manner. Travelport issued the clarification after the Association of Retail Travel Agents (ARTA) said it was protesting the move in a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
“As explained in the ASTA Member Alert issued August 6, 2009, regarding Carrier Fees Project, this does not apply currently in the U.S.," Travelport GDS said. "According to ASTA, ARC will be ready in 2010 though it remains unclear how it will be used by any airline. A revised product advisory will be issued shortly (August 13, 2009) clarifying these points.”
ARTA’s legal counsel, Alexander Anolik, had questioned the policy. "This certainly raises concerns that various industry distribution and settlement systems, including GDSs, may have been directly involved in conversations and agreements with one or more carriers to program for this functionality," he said. "It would be highly unlikely that such major system enhancements would be made at the behest of a single carrier."
ARTA, in view of the United Airlines policy change on credit card charges by travel agents, said it is concerned that, with such functionality in place, the way may be paved for ARC and/or the GDS themselves to become credit card merchant processors with the financial support of both airlines and travel agents. What would be a reduction of processing costs for airlines would become a new cost for agencies, according to Anolik.
ARTA also expressed concerns that a proposal to use a TFC (ticketing/fees) for the optional collection of agency service charges, as part of the e-ticket transaction, was thumbed down by ARC carriers which sit on the Joint (Agent/Airline) Advisory Board-Agent Reporting Agreement due to "resources, staffing, and facilitation issues."
ARTA said it would file a complaint this week with the U.S Department of Justice to investigate whether or not airlines were provided with opportunity and venues to jointly discuss plans to facilitate the collection and intent to impose such credit card charges.