Fee transparency rule leaves out GDSs, and ASTA isn't happy about it

ASTA and the Travel Technology Association have filed comments with the Department of Transportation about its regulatory proposal that would require airlines and third-party sellers of airline tickets, including travel advisors, to disclose extra fees upfront. 

Both groups agree with the need for increased transparency for consumers when it comes to ancillary fee disclosure. However, both organizations have concerns about the disclosures they would be required to make, and they take issue with the exclusion of GDSs from disclosure requirements.

The proposed rule states, “Global Distribution Systems (GDSs) would not be covered by this proposal as GDSs arrange for air transportation but do not sell or display a carrier’s fare to consumers.” However, most travel agencies, particularly those that sell corporate travel, use GDSs to book air.

ASTA called the DOT’s proposal “a step in the right direction” to provide full transparency to consumers purchasing airline tickets and optional ancillaries.

“While supportive of the overall spirit and several particular provisions of the proposed rule, ASTA has concerns about several of its finer details, foremost among them being the requirement that travel advisors disclose fees for multiple services in each and every ‘offline’ transaction — even to repeat customers and frequent fliers — and its expected impact on agency operations,” ASTA executive vice president of advocacy Eben Peck said in a release.

Also of concern is the exclusion of GDSs, he said.

The Travel Technology Association — a trade group representing GDSs, OTAs, travel search websites and travel management companies — agreed that GDSs should be included in the DOT’s proposed regulations, as should “all channels that distribute fare and schedule information,” Travel Tech president and CEO Laura Chadwick said in a release. “It is the most simple and direct way to solve the issue of ancillary fee transparency for customers.”

Chadwick said the association was “deeply concerned” that ancillary fee information would have to be displayed on the first page search results.

“These rules, if adopted as written, will clutter and confuse the online air travel shopping experience for consumers,” Chadwick said. “This is especially true for travel comparison sites that display multiple airlines’ schedules and fares.”

Instead, ticket agents should be given flexibility to design ancillary fee displays, Travel Tech said.

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