Here's the short version of a story involving the government and travel agents with a happy ending: The government adopts a regulation that imposes an expensive and unnecessary burden on travel agents; travel agents complain that the regulation would be an expensive and unnecessary burden; government agrees to put it on hold and think it over; government later agrees with travel agents and drops the idea.
This actually happened.
As we report in the news pages this week, the matter concerned the arcane subject of keeping hazardous materials out of passenger baggage, a problem the world's governments are trying to address in concert by harmonizing their regulations.
As part of that effort, the U.S. Transportation Department (DOT) in 2011 adopted a rule that would have required agents to recite a warning to passengers during telephone transactions and obtain an acknowledgement before issuing a ticket. Passengers would get the warning a second time and would have to acknowledge it again, at remote or airport check-in.
On behalf of travel agents, ASTA had argued that the acknowledgement should be required only at check-in. In a notice last month, the DOT finally agreed and simplified the regulation while remaining in "full alignment" with international agreements.
The industry owes a thank-you to the Transportation Department but also to ASTA for spotting this pothole and demanding that it be filled. Because the federal bureaucracy and its regulations are complex and labyrinthine, it takes an organization with some institutional connections and legal expertise to get the job done.
Kudos to ASTA for rising to that challenge.