Scottsdale, Arizona and Toronto, Ontario - 20 December 2010: The Association of Retail Travel Agents (ARTA) and the Association of Retail Travel Agents - Canada (ARTA Canada) voiced strenuous opposition today to a plan by GDS Galileo, Apollo, and Worldspan-owner Travelport to modify system fare displays for American Airlines' flights. Travelport allegedly implies that it was AA which requested to include the proposed Booking Source Premium Surcharges (imposed by AA in various countries on certain Travelport GDS subscribers) in Travelport GDS fare displays, however, AA denies having made any such request.
ARTA and ARTA Canada have been in ongoing dialogue with AA as the situation between the carrier and Travelport deteriorates. For its part, AA has told the associations that Travelport took it upon itself, without prior notice to AA, to not only plan increases to fare amounts by the surcharge value in Travelport GDS displays, but to automatically include the surcharge in the total paid at the time of ticketing through the use of the IATA TFC (Tax, Fee, Charge) code "YY".
The result is that the consumer will automatically be forced to pay the surcharge upon ticket purchase. In addition, impacted Travelport GDS users will find themselves in an uncompetitive position when their AA fares are higher compared to other GDS user agencies and even on AA.com.
Both associations have grave concerns that a GDS provider might unilaterally amend a carrier's fare, use a TFC to incorporate a fare component not approved by the carrier nor in its tariff, and force payment by the consumer for the amount to be processed through the IATA Billing and Settlement Plans (BSPs).
It appears to both associations that Travelport may be exceeding its authority by using its systems to force agents to pass the surcharge on to consumers, thereby interfering with the current discussions between AA and its accredited agents in this matter. In addition, the actions of Travelport may put its IATA certification as an authorized GDS provider at risk, exposing users of Travelport GDSs to the possibility that certification may be removed if AA and other concerned carriers prevail upon IATA to sanction Travelport for any alleged intentional and unauthorized fare and ticketing manipulation.
The escalation of the majority-Travelport-owned Orbitz/AA disagreement is now completely out of control, and the potential for huge damage to all GDS/carrier relationships seems inevitable.
At the same time, AA has advised the associations that its plans to partially recover the enormous Travelport booking fee increases from agents outside the U.S. and Caribbean using Agency Debit Memos (ADMs) is unaffected by Travelport's fare and ticketing modifications. This has the potential of creating substantial confusion and added work for agencies in trying to deal with and rectify both BSP point of sale payment and ADM collections for the same surcharge amount.
If Travelport is truly concerned about the impact of AA's surcharge on travel agencies and consumers, as Travelport continues to claim in its communications, the actions by Travelport to force the surcharge onto consumers and to force travel agencies to deal with the added work of accounting and reconciliation belie that claim.
Travelport should cease any attempt to bias its system against AA and consumers, and, instead, find an alternative which would not put all its subscriber agencies into the middle of Travelport's dispute with AA.
Given that the surcharge imposed by AA is only a fraction of the huge increase allegedly imposed by Travelport on AA, one possible alternative solution would be for Travelport to absorb the surcharge and indemnify its subscribers from paying same. Travelport will already be enriching itself with much higher booking fees from AA. It can certainly afford to defend both agent and consumer by refunding any ADM paid by an agent.
ARTA and ARTA Canada, therefore, call today for an immediate cessation by Travelport of any AA fare and ticketing modifications, and, instead, for Travelport to absorb the surcharges for any AA ADM a subscriber agency pays. If Travelport officials wish to meet with ARTA and ARTA Canada, both associations would welcome hearing Travelport's point of view. An invitation to Gordon Wilson, Travelport GDS president, for a meeting with the associations has been extended.
About ARTA Canada
ARTA Canada is the largest non-profit federally incorporated professional association of travel retailers in Canada, the members of which consist exclusively of travel agencies and travel agents. In addition to advocating fair and equitable treatment of travel consumers, ARTA Canada represents the commercial and strategic interests of its member travel agencies and travel agents in a variety of national and provincial domains including regulatory and legislative matters, automation, technology, sales and marketing, and distribution.
ARTA Canada is based in Toronto and is the strategic partner in Canada of the U.S.-based Association of Retail Travel Agents (ARTA). ARTA Canada is the Canadian member of UFTAA, the United Federation of Travel Agents' Associations.
Complete details about ARTA Canada's new $99 membership campaign for 2011 and an online ARTA Canada membership application and secure payment are available on its web site at www.artacanada.ca/join.