The Travel Weekly
agent advisory board met recently in Nashville, Tenn. At this
meeting -- and, I would say, against all odds -- Airlines Reporting
Corp. numbers turned out to be a most interesting topic.
First, one member advised that significant numbers of agents are
moving their businesses home and no longer selling air, except
perhaps as commissioned salespersons for someone else. However, to
collect full pay from nonair suppliers, they are keeping their ARC
numbers, filing zero reports and, reportedly, not telling ARC about
the change of status.
I have no way of knowing how many agents have taken such steps,
but what grabbed my attention was the way the ARC number has taken
on a life of its own.
The story got better when I turned for more clarity to the
non-ARC agent on our advisory board. This is what I learned: His
agency had, "at last count," 37 ARC and/or International Air
Transport Association numbers.
That's because, he said, no supplier wants to turn away sales
from a viable agency.
However, most supplier computer systems identify agencies by ARC
or IATA numbers. So, if you don't have one, you need one, and the
eager supplier will oblige by assigning you one. That becomes your
"ARC" or "IATA" number for dealing with that supplier.
It is true that some suppliers have programmed their systems to
accept Cruise Lines International Association numbers. On the other
hand, some cruise lines assign "ARC" numbers to agencies rather
than use CLIA numbers.
Only a few of the larger hotel chains won't assign "ARC" or
In a final irony, our non-ARC agency, which these days gets air
tickets as needed from another agency and splits the pay, is
routinely approached by airlines that want the agency to book
groups with them directly. The carriers say they will assign an
"ARC" number and pay overrides.
As more agencies turn away from air, what began as a convenient
anomaly stands to become an ever bigger one with the broad use of
"ARC" and "IATA" codes for working with suppliers of everything but
Also, this means nonair suppliers will lean less and less on the
structured ARC and IATA systems to identify agencies; they have
created or will be effectively creating their own pools of
But, I wonder: Are suppliers differentiating effectively between
full-time producers of leisure sales (whether based at home or in
an office) and the part-time, home-based occasional sellers of
And, I wonder: Does anyone have a true measure of the size of
this shift away from air sales and away from the airline
appointments that once constituted a standard definition of a