On Monday, the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) officially filed written comments on the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) proposal on airline ancillary fees.
The proposal, made by the DOT last year as a way to increase transparency in airfares and ancillary service fees, would place a burden on travel advisors who could be required to disclose fees for multiple services in each and every transaction. ASTA had supported the transparency push but had voiced concerns over what advisors would then be required to do. (The proposal is something that TMR’s Paul Ruden called “a work of staggering complexity.”)
ASTA’s written comments include support for the “overall spirit” of the proposal while voicing concerns about how it could impact its members.
“While supportive of the overall spirit and several particular provisions of the proposed rule, ASTA does have concerns about several of its finer details, foremost among them being the requirement that ticket agents disclose fees for multiple services in each and every “offline” transaction – even to repeat customers and frequent fliers – and its expected impact on agency operations,” the comments read.
The comments also include an explanation of how the proposal would not only affect travel advisors but also their clients who will now have to sit through “a litany of disclosures” if they want to book air tickets over the phone or in person instead of online.
“We do not believe it is the Department’s intent, nor is it in the public interest, that consumers be forced to listen to a litany of disclosures if they wish to purchase tickets over the phone instead of online. We suspect that this would be especially burdensome for frequent fliers who will have to listen to the same disclosures again and again and again,” the comments read.
As part of the written comments, ASTA made a number of other points, including why corporate travel agencies should be exempted from the rule, why baggage and seating fees must also be transactable, and how the proposed six-month implementation period is too short.
“It appears to us that implementation will require substantial changes to an already massively complex airline distribution system. From IT investments, including but not limited to those required by travel agencies, to training staff to figuring out the mechanics of how ancillary fee information will get from carriers to agents to consumers, implementing this proposal in a way that meets the Department’s consumer protection objectives will certainly take more than six months,” the comments read.