ASTA Appeals to DOT Not to Force Travel Advisors to Be Responsible for Canceled Flights

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ASTA Appeals to DOT Not to Force Travel Advisors to Be Responsible for Canceled Flights

PHOTO: ASTA is a great resource for travel advisors (photo via ASTA)

The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) sent a written statement to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) against its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking requiring travel advisors to be financially responsible for clients’ canceled or significantly rescheduled flights.

The law is explained thus according to the proposed rule’s summary: “The U.S. Department of Transportation is proposing to codify its longstanding interpretation that it is an unfair business practice for a U.S. air carrier, a foreign air carrier, or a ticket agent to refuse to provide requested refunds to consumers when a carrier has canceled or made a significant change to a scheduled flight to, from, or within the United States, and consumers found the alternative transportation offered by the carrier or the ticket agent to be unacceptable.”

Peter Lobasso, ASTA’s Senior Vice President & General Counsel, urged the DOT in the statement to decline the addition of travel advisors being responsible to provide refunds to their clients when they have canceled or significantly changed flights.

The statement urges that this only be true under three circumstances: “If this is not feasible, we request that the final rule expressly limit a ticket agent’s obligation to issue a consumer refund only in circumstances where the ticket agent: i) is the merchant of record of the transaction; ii) has received notice from the airline that the passenger is entitled to receive a refund; and iii) is in possession of the consumer’s funds.”

The proposed rule was released in August; the public comment period closes on December 16, after which the DOT will consider the statements made by all parties and will issue a final rule in 2023.

“While we share the Department’s goal of ensuring consumers get the refunds they are entitled to when an airline cancels a flight, putting travel advisors ‘on the hook’ for issuing those refunds is the wrong way to do it,” said Zane Kerby, ASTA President & CEO. “In fact, it will negatively affect consumers in the long run as the financial risk associated with this proposal may lead agencies to stop selling air tickets altogether, depriving consumers of the valuable consultatory services and comparative shopping options advisors provide. We urge DOT to make the changes we’re suggesting.”

ASTA also recently testified before the DOT surrounding the rule to make ancillary fees more transparent, urging the department not to require travel advisors to be obligated to share all costs for ancillary fees for airlines with their clients, even before they have purchased their tickets.

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