Today, the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), global advocate for travel agencies and the world’s leading association of travel professionals, cheered the inclusion of several of its top priorities within a fresh piece of bipartisan legislation rolled out today by the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
The ‘Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act’ reauthorizes the existence of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), as well as other federal-level aviation safety and infrastructure programs through at least 2028.
Current FAA programs are set to expire on September 30, 2023.
Among other things, the bill introduces a blueprint for improving FAA operations and efficiency, growing the aviation industry’s workforce, investing in airport infrastructure, enhancing the passenger experience, securing the gold standard in aviation safety, encouraging innovation in air travel, and reauthorizing work of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
The new legislation encompasses multiple provisions particularly championed by ASTA, including:
- Clarifying Travel Agency Refund Obligations – Demystifying a previous point of concern contained within a separate and pending Department of Transportation (DOT) measure on airline refund requirements, this new bill makes clear that a travel agency is obligated to issue client refunds only when it presently possesses the funds in question; as opposed to being compelled to provide refunds out of pocket in certain circumstances where clients’ flights were cancelled or significantly changed, regardless of whether the agency in in possession of its clients’ funds.
- Adding a Travel Agency Seat on the DOT Consumer Protection Advisory Committee – The new rule-making incorporates the terms of another bipartisan bill recently brought before the House, called the ‘Aviation Consumer Protection Advisory Committee (ACPAC) Modernization Act’ (H.R.3780), which ASTA also strongly supports. It would broaden the membership of the DOT’s existing ACPAC, a key agency advisory board, by adding a dedicated seat for a travel agency representative.
- Streamlining Disclosures in Offline Ticket Transactions – The bill would also require the DOT to develop a method for streamlining the delivery of required customer disclosures during “offline transactions” (e.g., over the phone, in-person) within 18 months of the new regulation’s enactment. When selling air tickets, travel advisors are obligated by law to communicate up to seven different disclosures per transaction, eating up valuable time and impacting their business operations. This is a point that ASTA has sought to address since 2017 and was included in its request to Congress, sent earlier this year.
- Creating a New Consumer Advisory Committee With a Travel Agency Seat – The legislation would also oblige the DOT to form a new ‘Passenger Experience Advisory Committee’ with at least one seat among its membership set aside for a ticketing agent representative. The committee’s function would be to counsel Secretary of Transportation on ways to improve the passenger experience in air transportation customer service.
“The FAA reauthorization legislation released by the committee today includes many of the provisions ASTA has been advocating for on behalf of our members since the beginning of the year and in some cases far longer,” said ASTA President and CEO, Zane Kerby.
“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 that policymakers recognize the invaluable role travel advisors play in the larger travel and tourism ecosystem while serving as a key voice for consumers.”
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