he world's airlines, represented by
their international trade association, IATA, have floated a most
interesting proposition: A clearinghouse to handle the transfer of
funds between travel agents and travel suppliers, such as hotels,
cruise lines, tour operators and consolidators.
The new entity, IATA Travel Settlement Services, was rolled out
in Canada in 2002, and IATA is going to bring it to the U.S. this
The project appears to be part of an effort by IATA to operate
settlement systems in various countries around the world where it
already operates agency accreditation and settlement programs for
airlines, similar to ARC's operation in the U.S.
ARC, of course, has tried over the years to attract nonair
suppliers to its settlement system, but with only modest success.
So far, the big names, the names like Carnival, Hilton or Hertz,
The IATA plan, as described in our news pages today, would offer
agents and suppliers somewhat more flexibility than ARC.
Participants, for example, would negotiate their own invoice and
payment schedules, and travel sellers wouldn't need an ARC
accreditation to reap the benefits of participating in the
We will leave it to the affected travel suppliers and travel
agents to decide whether this is a good idea.
For the moment, we will simply observe that we are reminded of
the last time IATA tried to do a big unsolicited favor for the rest
of the travel industry. That was several years ago, when IATA tried
to create (some said control) a "dot-travel" Internet domain for
the rest of us.
It didn't happen, largely because the Internet's governing body
thought the airlines didn't have all their "partners in travel" on
IATA may have a good idea here, but if it is so necessary that
surface travel suppliers have such a service, why is it being
invented by the airlines? We'd like to hear more from agents, and
from hotels, cruise lines, tour and car rental firms, attractions
and theme parks.
• • •
etBlue, the airline that seems
to make news the way other airlines make exhaust fumes, has decided
to make the Dominican Republic its first international destination
in June. Judging from the applications on file at the
Transportation Department, Canada, the Bahamas, Jamaica and Bermuda
won't be far behind.
This isn't the first time that cheap seats have gone
international. Sir Freddie Laker upset the transatlantic applecart
with low-cost, low-frills service nearly 30 years ago, and several
of the post-deregulation new entrants in the U.S., such as People
Express, expanded from domestic to international service -- though
not always with happy results.
The current crop of low-cost carriers in the U.S., for the most
part, have confined themselves to domestic service. So it is with
great interest that we will be among those watching how JetBlue
manages this next phase of its extraordinary growth.