SAN JUAN — The FAA Reauthorization Bill. Ancillary fee disclosures. Independent contractor classification.
These are some of the legislative action items on ASTA’s radar as part of its near-term advocacy goals.
“Our hands are full, as always,” Eben Peck, executive vice president of advocacy, said during a press meeting at the ASTA Global Convention here. “That’s the government. They never give you a moment’s rest.”
ASTA has a wish list of priorities for the FAA Reauthorization bill, which is being written this year to replace the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018.
First on the list is related to a pending DOT rulemaking on airline ticket refunds that Peck said would likely be addressed in the FAA reauthorization. Under some circumstances outlined in the rulemaking, travel advisors would be responsible for paying refunds to clients out of pocket if a flight is canceled.
While Peck said advisors will do anything they can to get clients refunds that are due from the airlines, he said refunds should not have to be paid by the travel agency.
ASTA is also lobbying for a seat on the DOT’s Aviation Consumer Protection Advisory Committee, created by the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2012. The committee currently includes airlines, airports, consumer groups and a state attorney general.
The Society is also lobbying to minimize the number of consumer disclosures agencies have to make when they sell an air ticket, Peck said. While disclosures aren’t difficult to relate in an online environment, they can get “pretty clunky” in person or via phone, he said.
Disclosures are “almost always aimed at airline bad behavior, yet because we sell half the tickets in the country, we have to make those disclosures, as well,” he said.
ASTA is attempting to meet every member of the House and Senate transportation committees before the reauthorization bill is written, Peck said, and is about halfway to that goal.
There are two major DOT proposals on ASTA’s radar: the aforementioned rulemaking on ticket refunds and another related to ancillary fee disclosures.
The rulemaking on ancillary fees would require airlines to give agencies ancillary fee information that is “usable, accurate and accessible in real time” as well as transactability for ancillaries that enable family seating. ASTA is primarily concerned with the disclosures travel agents would have to make regarding those fees, especially during offline transactions.
The rulemaking could be finalized as early as next April, Peck said, though he predicted both it and the ancillary fee rule could face challenges in court.
The Society has also asked the Department of Labor to abandon a proposal that would make it more difficult for agencies to categorize workers as independent contractors (ICs).
While Labor’s proposal does not introduce the most stringent classification measures, Peck said, the new rules would make it “a little harder to engage ICs.” A final rule could come as early as this month.
ASTA also continues its fight against the rollout of American Airlines’ NDC strategy. Peck said the policy is having a negative effect on corporate clients in particular, and ASTA has taken up the issue with the Justice Department and the DOT.
ASTA’s annual Legislative Day will be held June 20 and 21, and Peck said the Society hopes to have ASTA members in attendance from all 50 states.
He pointed members to a document covering all of the Society’s 2021-2022 advocacy wins, “of which there were many,” available at www.asta.org/advocacy.
“So the next time somebody asks you, ‘What has ASTA done for me lately?,’ it’s in that document,” Peck said.
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