Alexandria, Va., May 16, 2002 - The American Society of Travel Agents hailed today`s announcement by Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta that the commission to study how airline marketing practices affect travel agents and consumers will be activated and will hold its first public hearing June 11.
“We are very pleased that this long-awaited commission is being activated at this critical juncture in our industry`s history. It`s been a long, hard journey to get this far,” said ASTA President and CEO Richard M. Copland, CTC. “ASTA and the Coalition for Travel Industry Parity (CTIP) have worked tirelessly, with the support of the National Tour Association (NTA), to assure that the travel agency community gets a fair hearing. This is the first time that travel agents will get to present the whole story about what airlines are doing to interfere with consumer choice.
“America is all about the little guy getting a chance to plead his case before the highest levels of the government. We not only speak for travel agents, but we speak for the consumer,” said Copland. “Attention must be paid to the direction our air transportation industry is going. As the market power converges into the hands of fewer players, the consumers` access to information and choice is being seriously restricted. That`s what this commission is all about.”
The Commission will study the role of travel agents in the distribution of air travel and whether the airlines are creating barriers to block consumer access to information and choice. The Commission will have six months to transmit a report to the President of the United States and Congress.
“ASTA would like to recognize Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) and Rep. John Sweeney (R-NY) for their instrumental role in securing the introduction and passage of this important legislation,” said Copland. “We applaud Secretary Mineta`s choice of David Winstead as chair. His experience as the former secretary of transportation for the state of Maryland will serve him well.”
ASTA and CTIP drafted the Improved Consumer Access to Travel Information Act (ICATTI) in 1998. On April 5, 2000, the language passed as part of H.R. 1000, the Aviation Investment and Reform Act, which includes the creation of a national commission to study the financial condition of travel agents, anti-consumer and anti-travel agent practices of the airlines and the impact on consumers of restrictions on the use of air tickets.
“Travel agents have a very compelling story to tell on their behalf and on behalf of their clients,” said Copland. “Agents still book the vast majority of all airline tickets because that`s what consumers prefer, but that annoys the airlines. Consumers must continue to have the right to book publicly available fares through their travel agent.”
Three of the commission members are ASTA representatives, including:
á Paul M. Ruden, Esq., CTC, senior vice president, Legal and Industry Affairs, ASTA, Alexandria, Va., (ASTA staff) á Ann B. Mitchell, CTC, Ph.D. - CWT/Travel First College Park, Starkville, Miss. (ASTA member) á Ted Lawson, National Travel Service, Charleston, W. Va. (ASTA member)