RC hit a nerve, as it knew it would,
when it advised the trade that it intends to begin "a consultative
dialogue" about "business process improvements."
The letter from ARC president David Collins could only dance
around the topic for so long, however. The words "daily reporting"
finally appear in the third paragraph. "Shortening the time
available for voiding transactions" shows up in the sixth.
Along the way, ARC states that it's also going to talk to agents
about moving up the settlement date for cash transactions.
What never shows up in the letter from ARC, however, is any
suggestion that the "business process improvements" have any upside
The closest ARC comes to citing a benefit to agents is the
suggestion that airlines will regard agency distribution as
"attractive and viable" if ARC improves the efficiency and
integrity of its system. ARC refers to the need to keep its
"airline customers" happy.
It's worth remembering at this point that ARC and its "airline
customers" are one and the same. ARC is an instrument of the
collective will of the airlines. The airlines created ARC and they
We don't dispute that ARC does many good things, but we all need
to remember that ARC is the airlines.
No doubt the airlines would benefit from daily sales reporting,
fewer voids and quicker cash remittances. But what's in it for
agents? More work, fewer tools for serving clients and less cash
If ARC wants to make its system look attractive, it should think
about making it attractive to agents.
ARC said it wants a "consultative" dialogue, but agents may well
conclude that this has all the makings of a one-way
• • •
gents owe a debt of gratitude
and a nod of respect to the members of the National Commission to
Ensure Consumer Information and Choice in the Airline Industry. The
commission's final report is a thoughtful and dispassionate
assessment of the situation of travel agents, developed by a
nine-member panel that embodied many points of view from inside and
outside the industry, including three working travel agents -- no
The report concluded that there's not much the government can do
to help agents, who are being buffeted by economic forces and
technological changes that government cannot control. And the three
working agents concurred -- a sobering thought.
But this discussion doesn't have to end there. If we can't
expect "government intervention" to rescue agents from these
intractable forces, we can at least demand that our institutions do
Addressing some of the Transportation Department's GDS proposals
might be one place to start.