The Association of Retail Travel Agents (ARTA) and the Association of Retail Travel Agents - Canada (ARTA Canada) stated that today's decision by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to defer any action to require airlines to provide ancillary fee data to GDSs underscores the two associations' position that travel agents must explore and evaluate alternative distribution and booking tools.
The two associations have long held that governments will not force air carriers to provide ancillary fee data to GDSs, as such a requirement would interfere with the carriers' ability to negotiate better overall terms with distribution companies. ARTA and ARTA Canada have repeatedly stated that the traditional GDS model continues to limit functionality, content, and agent profitability by continually placing travel agent subscribers in the middle of all too frequent airline/GDS disagreements and product presentation disputes. Airlines want better terms, better display criteria, and better product differentiation and are actively seeking new, more cost-efficient platforms to distribute their products and services via the travel agency sales channel.
"Other agency groups hung their hopes on the supposition that the Government would step in and mandate the delivery of this data. We knew from the start that this would be wishful thinking and that agents needed to start exploring those distribution platforms with which airlines were collaborating. We feel vindicated in being among the few agency voices which could see beyond the rhetoric and engage support for new, more content-rich platforms. The DOT said it won't intervene, and we never expected that it would", said ARTA Canada President and ARTA Managing Director Bruce Bishins, CTC.
In its ruling, the DOT stated:
"We cannot at this time agree that it is in the public interest to mandate that step, since we lack additional information about costs, benefits and consequences of requiring U.S. and foreign carriers to provide ancillary fee information to GDSs ... the Department wants to ensure that any action it takes does not have unintended consequences, particularly given the sensitive nature of the market and the negotiations currently taking place between carriers and GDSs."
While the DOT did enact some rules to make fees more transparent and more visible in the earlier stages of the booking process, both at carriers and via travel agencies, the full deployment of ancillary fees across all booking channels remains a negotiation between distribution companies and airlines.
ARTA and ARTA Canada will continue to support those tools and platforms which offer agents more robust content and which adopt the Open AXIS Group Distribution 2.0 initiative. In this regard, the two associations applauded the agreement announced today between Delta Air Lines and Farelogix to provide an ARC-enabled booking option to sell and settle the complete array of Delta's products and service. Farelogix is one of the preeminent providers of XML connectivity and booking tools adopting the Open AXIS Group standard, an industry standard which Farelogix itself help create.