State OKs ATM Sales of Air Coupons


HONOLULU -- Hawaii's Department of Commerce and Consumer Protection said the Bank of Hawaii would not act as a travel agent in selling Hawaiian Airline ticket coupons through its automated teller machines.

The decision paves the way for the carrier to sell interisland coupons through ATMs.

However, it came only a short time before the proposed March 1 start-up date announced in early January, delaying the conversion of one-third of the bank's 400 ATMs to dispense the coupons. The Bank of Hawaii said it is working on a new launch date, which it hopes will be before the end of this month.

The commerce department's ruling followed a request by the Hawaii ASTA chapter, which protested the move, for information on its legality. "Naturally, we're disappointed [by the decision]. We're checking with ASTA headquarters on options we can pursue," said Mary Lou Lewis, ASTA chapter president.

The department said that its decision is an informal interpretation of state law, and is not an official opinion. It understood, from information provided by the state-chartered bank, that Hawaiian will rent ATM space and will make the travel arrangements, and the bank will provide banking services, such as bill payment and fund transfers.

"Therefore, we believe Bank of Hawaii does not fall within the definition of a 'travel agency,' which is by statute an entity 'which for compensation or other consideration acts, or attempts to act, as an intermediary' between a purchaser and seller of travel services," it said.

One week before the decision, ASTA headquarters faxed opposition statements to the department. It argued that the bank is an "intermediary," and therefore a travel agent. It also argued that state law prohibits banks from employing "funds directly or directly in trade or commerce," and federal regulators prohibit federally chartered banks from travel agency activities.

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