ASTA and the travel agency industry can count on strong support in its battle against the Airline Reporting Corporations (ARC) service fee hikes from members of ASTA's Corporate Advisory Council (CAC), said Gary Charlwood, founder, chairman and CEO of Uniglobe Travel International, in an interview with Travel Agent.
Charlwood called ARC's fee increases "unfair to travel agents" and said that ASTA and the industry was right to oppose it. "We are aggressively opposing ARC's policy and expect that the full resources of CAC members will be used to combat it. This impacts virtually every agent and agency who sells air."
ASTA argues that ARC's fee increase could hike annual administrative costs by as much as 172 percent. ASTA has filed an appeal with the Independent Arbitration Panel. A decision is expected in June. Carlson Wagonlit Travel and Uniglobe Travel USA backed the appeal.
Support of the CAC suggests that ARC faces a unified agency front, including three of the largest internationally branded franchise groups. Charlwood was the first chairman of the CAC, a post now held by Carlson's (now Travel Acquisitions Group) Roger Block. American Express' Ellen Bettridge, a CAC member, also serves on ASTA's board.
ASTA's CAC includes 25 major agency groups such as Vacation.com with 5,100 agencies.
"I expect ASTA to have many battles ahead of it and believe the support and contributions of the CAC will prove indispensable," Charlwood said. He also said that the CAC's support had been instrumental in ASTA's turnaround and that he expected the CAC to stand behind ASTA in a variety of ways including financing.
In addition to Uniglobe, Charlwood is founder and chair of the Charlwood Pacific Group, that has 1,700 franchise locations worldwide, including 700 Uniglobe locations in 33 countries. Charlwood founded Uniglobe in 1980, against widespread skepticism about the value of franchising travel agencies. (GD)