Posted on: April 30, 2012
Dear Mr. Secretary
We don't often side with airlines in disputes involving airlines and agents, but we're prepared to make an exception in a case where the Transportation Department (DOT) is being invited to impose a solution.
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We refer to ASTA's proposal that the DOT compel airlines to display all their ancillary services in all GDSs in which they participate, and to make those services available for sale through agents.
The proposal originated in 2010 and made it to the DOT's to-do list last year. Now it appears that the DOT is nearly ready to send it to the Office of Management and Budget for review before publishing it as a proposed regulation. That accounts for the letter that the airlines recently fired off to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, pleading for restraint.
We understand how the proposal would benefit agents and GDSs, but we also know that if airlines become captive customers of the GDSs for the processing of ancillary transactions, it would remove any incentive for GDSs to charge competitive fees for that service, a market distortion that the government has no business creating.
We'd like to see these ancillaries in the GDSs, too, but we believe that the best and only way for that to happen is as a result of commercial negotiations and technological cooperation. If the DOT wants to do something constructive, it can try to mediate and hasten that process rather than bigfoot it with a regulatory solution.
Seeing a near-term benefit, ASTA has no qualms about reinjecting the DOT into the relationship between airlines and GDSs. But this isn't only about the near term, and we have qualms galore.