ASTA Testifies in Front of DOT on Transparency and Ancillary Rulesby Daniel McCarthy /
On Thursday, ASTA’s executive vice president of advocacy Eben Peck appeared in front of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Aviation Consumer Protection Advisory Committee, representing the 17,000 members across the country.
Peck’s appearance focused on two recent proposals from the DOT.
The first is the proposal by the DOT to increase transparency in airfares and ancillary service fees, something that TMR’s Paul Ruden called “a work of staggering complexity.” Peck told members that the proposal is a “step in the right direction” for full transparency but ASTA has concerns about how the “requirement to disclose fees for multiple services in each and every ‘offline’ transaction” could have on its members.
Mainly, Peck said, the 2017 proposal from the DOT on disclosures related to baggage fees included the words “upon request,” which removed some burden from travel advisors and agency owners when they were speaking to their clients. Those words, absent from the DOT’s proposal, could “make all the difference for our members.”
Ultimately, the move would put even more of a burden on travel advisors, who are already required to make up to seven consumer disclosures per transaction when selling air tickets. “We estimate annual compliance costs to our industry for the existing disclosure regime at $8.83 million per year,” Peck said on Thursday.
The second is the proposal on whether the DOT should require airlines to provide fee information about ancillary services in the various GDSs, a question which Peck answered: “unequivocally, yes, the Department should require this.”
The travel agency community has already “invested heavily” to integrate GDS into its operations, investments that are estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars. If agencies aren’t able to access ancillary fee information flow through the GDS, “much of this investment will have to be duplicated so that agents can continue meeting the needs of their clients. In the best of circumstances this will take many years and much disruption to accomplish,” Peck said.