Mark Pestronk
Mark Pestronk

Q: Our agency has a couple of large corporate clients with offices in Canada. Can we issue tickets in the U.S. for Canadian travelers coming to the U.S. or going to third countries? Can we open a branch office in Canada? If not, how would we go about setting up a physical office in Canada?

A: The general rule is that any U.S. agency has the right to ticket any traveler flying anywhere on Earth. So you certainly can issue tickets for a corporation’s travelers in Canada.

However, chances are good that a Canadian company or branch of a U.S. company in Canada would prefer to deal with a Canada-based agency location. Therefore, you will need to think about having a ticketing location in Canada.

Unfortunately, a U.S. agency cannot have a ticketing branch in another country. ARC appointments are not recognized in other countries, and Iatan appointments are separate from IATA appointments. In this sense, the U.S. is behind the rest of the world, where agencies with IATA appointments in one country can open a branch in many other countries, if allowed by local law.

Nonrecognition of ARC and Iatan outside the U.S. means that if you want to have your own ticketing location in Canada, it must be a location started from scratch or acquired from an existing Canadian agency.

To ticket, you must have an IATA appointment and participate in IATA’s Billing and Settlement Plan. Under IATA’s requirements, the location must be “identified as a place of business for a travel agency.” This permits on-site offices at corporations but rules out ticketing locations in employees’ homes. All of IATA’s requirements for Canada can be found here. The IATA website also has forms for acquisitions.

However, before you apply to IATA, you must have any travel agency license needed in the province where you will have a location. In the three most populous provinces ­— Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia — a travel agency needs a travel agency license before it can make sales, including sales to a corporate account.

The licensing or registration criteria are, by U.S. standards, formidable. What’s more, at least in Ontario, the manager and agents must meet fixed criteria, including educational standards, and be authorized to work in Canada. You can get links to provinces’ requirements here.

Because of all these obstacles, most U.S. agencies that want any kind of ticketing presence in Canada do so via a joint venture with a Canadian agency. Each party performs different duties, and the parties share transaction or management fees paid by the corporate client.

Some examples of U.S.-Canadian joint ventures that seem to work are having the Canadian agency: (a) open a location in your business’ name, (b) set up a new division of its company using your trade name or (c) simply do the ticketing for reservations made by your staff in the U.S.

You can probably find a willing joint venture partner in your consortium or cooperative. A few large agencies even have established programs headed by a dedicated executive who implements each joint venture according to the U.S. agency’s needs and Canadian legal requirements.
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