Airline bankruptcies are making headlines these days and leaving America’s flying public a little uneasy about their future travel plans. Now, with the holidays fast approaching, consumers need to be armed with the best and most up-to-date travel advice and information, the kind that members of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) provide daily for their clients.
“Airlines are filing for bankruptcy at an unprecedented rate these days, and it’s not surprising to hear that consumers’ faith in these carriers have been shaken,” said ASTA President and CEO Kathryn W. Sudeikis, CTC. “But no matter the state of the airlines, consumers still have a high degree of faith in the services their travel agents provide. Clients are a travel agent’s first priority, and each and every day they are working hard to bring their clients the best travel experience possible.
“Savvy travelers work with a travel agent and breathe easier knowing they have a travel professional in their corner, sorting through their options to help them reach their destinations. Travel agents can help travelers explore all their options, including alternative flights and departures from different airports or on different airlines,” added Sudeikis. “Without a travel agent, you really are on your own.”
Struggling airlines may declare bankruptcy while continuing flight operations, leaving many consumers unsure about their upcoming travel plans. ASTA’s consumer Web site, www.TravelSense.org, has issued the following tips to consumers holding tickets on any airline that has declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy:
1) Use a credit card. When selecting a supplier rumored to be in financial trouble, consumers should pay by credit card. Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, credit card customers have the right to refuse paying for charges for services not rendered. Details of the Fair Credit Billing Act can be found at the Federal Trade Commission’s Web site at www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/fcb.htm
2) Consider insurance. Some travel insurance policies may include supplier default protection. However, before purchasing insurance consumers should check with their ASTA member travel agent to determine what policy best meets their needs.
3) Remember Section 145. Through Nov. 19, 2005, when Section 145 expires, consumers who already have purchased a ticket on an airline that ceases operations may be entitled to stand-by travel on other airlines. Section 145 of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act provides that airline passengers holding tickets (paper or electronic) from a bankrupt carrier for a particular route are entitled, at minimum, to transportation on a space-available basis on ANY airline currently serving that route within 60 days after an airline has suspended operations. Additionally, the maximum fee that an airline can charge for providing standby transportation should not exceed $25 each way.
4) File a claim. If all else fails and a consumer is unable to take advantage of the Fair Credit Billing Act or Section 145, they should file a claim with the bankruptcy court. The bankruptcy court usually provides filing instructions, including claim forms, within months after a bankruptcy is filed.
For helpful consumer tips such as these or to find the nearest ASTA member travel agency, consumers should visit the Society’s Web site at www.TravelSense.org