Legislation released last week to reauthorize the FAA includes a number of provisions that are travel agency-friendly.
If adopted as written, travel advisors will not be on the hook for issuing client refunds on airline tickets unless they possess the funds.
Also, the agency community will gain a seat on the DOT’s Consumer Protection Advisory Committee as well as on a new consumer advisory committee.
And, the DOT will be required to streamline the process of making disclosures when selling airline tickets to consumers.
ASTA was pleased with the inclusions, which had been among its top legislative priorities this year.
While ASTA president and CEO Zane Kerby recognized that the FAA reauthorization process still has a way to go, he said, “We applaud committee leadership and staff for their diligent work in putting this bill together and for being responsive to the concerns of travel advisors in their districts and across the country.
“The bill is evidence,” Kerby added, “that policymakers recognize the invaluable role travel advisors play in the larger travel and tourism ecosystem while serving as a key voice for consumers.”
Under the legislation, it is now made clear that a travel agency’s obligation to issue a refund to a client is limited to “when such ticket agent possesses, or has access to, the funds of a passenger.”
A DOT rulemaking on airline refunds had previously stated agents would have to pay refunds for canceled or significantly changed flights out of their own pocket, regardless of whether they had the client’s funds.
Additionally, the legislation adds a travel agency seat to the DOT’s Consumer Protection Advisory Committee. It includes the text of a bill introduced earlier this month doing just that.
The new legislation also requires the DOT to “implement a streamlined system for fulfilling consumer disclosure requirements” in offline transactions, either over the phone or face to face, within 18 months of its enactment, ASTA said. This, according to the Society, will help advisors manage the disclosures they are required to make to consumers when selling airline tickets.
The issue has been an ASTA priority for at least six years.
Finally, the legislation creates a new consumer advisory committee that includes travel agencies. The Passenger Experience Advisory Committee at the DOT would have a seat for ticket agents. Its goal, ASTA said, is to advise the secretary of transportation on improving passenger experience in air travel customer service.
The legislation, titled the Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act, was released by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
ASTA said the committee is expected to consider the bill next week. Then, it will advance to the House of Representatives.
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