The American Society of Travel Agents thinks the imposition of two U.S. Department of Transportation rules on airline bag-fee disclosures may lead more travel agencies to abandon selling airline tickets.
“ASTA supports disclosure of ancillary fees to consumers on agency websites or e-ticket confirmations, as the rules designate, but we are against rules that will incentivize more agencies to stop selling airline tickets altogether, further restricting consumers’ option in how they purchase air travel,” says Chris Russo, ASTA president.
The U.S. travel agency trade association petitioned the DOT to “defer the implementation” of the two rules on bag-fee disclosures which are slated to take effect Aug. 23.
One of the rules would require travel agents with consumer websites to refer consumers to airline websites to view bag-fee information or to provide a section on the agency’s own website once travelers select an itinerary.
The other rule would require travel agents’ e-ticket confirmations to include information about each passenger’s free bag-fee allowance and the fee for carry-on bags, and first and second bags.
ASTA claims the rules would do much to hurt travel agents’ ability to remain competitive and would harm the efficiency of their operations.
While many U.S. travel agents stopped selling airline tickets years ago when carriers eliminated standard commissions, ASTA feels the new rules would prompt more agencies to follow their lead.
ASTA argues that many travel agencies would have to manually monitor airline websites for updates and the process would be costly and lead to errors.
“The magnitude of programming and other costs to either manually collect and display the data or the cost to screen-scrape the information will be very large, beyond the means of most small and medium-sized agencies…” ASTA says. “If those costs are large for airlines, they will be gigantic for travel agencies.”
Alternately, ASTA favors mandating that airlines distribute all of their ancillary fee information to travel agencies through global distribution systems.