The Business Travel Coalition (BTC) is surveying the viewpoints of travel agents and the industry prior to its testifying before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Aviation on July 14. The hearing will focus on airline extra fees and charges (often called “ancillary fees”) for services like checked luggage, advance seat assignment and meals. The online survey will help the BTC form policy on ancillary fees and their impact on the traveling public and the travel industry.
“Many of these services were traditionally included in the fare paid to purchase a ticket,” Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the BTC said. “I ask for your input ahead of this potentially influential hearing whether you are located in the U.S. or another country. While BTC has supported unbundling and ancillary fees in principle as a potentially profitable and sustainable revenue stream for airlines, thus far these airline strategies have caused serious problems for corporate managed travel programs. To their credit, a few airlines have endeavored to engage distribution system participants, including corporate travel managers, in exploring equitable and cooperative paths forward.
“Unfortunately, many other airlines have been loath to implement such cooperative programs and seem intent on hiding-the-ball on the all-in costs of taking one of their flights as opposed to the flights of their competitors,” Mitchell continued. “Worse yet, other airlines would like to unilaterally impose upon the industry their self-centered vision of the future of travel distribution with absolutely no concern about the disruptive impact on the workflow processes - and attendant added expense - of the corporate travel departments that ultimately underwrite already a disproportionate share of the costs of the air transportation system.”
This hearing is an opportunity to communicate managed travel community perspectives with respect to the opportunities, problems and potential industry direction of unbundling initiatives as well as the availability and format of ancillary fee data, Mitchell said. Importantly, he notes that the Department of Transportation (DOT) has an open Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that seeks industry input regarding where, when and how airlines should be required to make ancillary fee data available for use in managed travel programs, The DOT comment period closes August 9.
“Based on feedback I have received so far, it is my current view that whenever an airline has agreed to make its fares available for sale through a particular travel agency or GDS that incomplete disclosure by that airline of the entire price to be paid for a specific itinerary – by holding back needed information on these extra fees and charges so that travelers can be fairly and adequately informed – is plainly deceptive and simply not an allowable option. No doubt this hearing will be of keen interest to the U.S. DOT; so your participation is crucial,” Mitchell said.
The BTC has created a survey of threshold questions surrounding managed travel and ancillary fees to inform BTC testimony on July 14. Corporate travel managers, travel agency executives and all other industry participants are encouraged to provide their views to this House Committee. The questions are at: www.surveymonkey.com/s/263BZMX. BTC asks that the survey be completed by the close of business on Monday, July 12.