ASTA Champions Consumer Choice, Calls Out American Airlines in Regulatory Hearing – Travel And Tour World

The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) remained steadfast in its commitment to challenge American Airlines‘ dominant tactics in the travel agency distribution channel.

Earlier today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) conducted a collaborative session focusing on the rewards programs offered by airlines and credit card companies. The session featured notable figures such as DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg and CFPB Director Rohit Chopra. Zane Kerby, President & CEO of ASTA, and Jessie Klement, VP of Advocacy at ASTA, both provided critical insights into American Airlines’ restrictive practices.

“Emboldened by no competitive, consumer, or regulatory response, American Airlines decided that customers booking through most travel agencies won’t receive rewards miles for their flights,” said Zane Kerby. Speaking directly to Secretary Buttigieg, Mr. Kerby went on to point out that, “We brought the underlying issue to DOT’s attention through a formal complaint last Fall that remains pending.”

Jessica Klement added, “The so-called criterion for becoming a preferred agency is 30 percent of bookings through NDC, and American is intentionally vague on 30 percent of what – total bookings, revenue, etc… no one knows, including our own members who have been deemed preferred.”

ASTA continues to argue that American’s dominance is a significant concern for those in regulatory and legislative positions who prioritize market competition and consumer rights. In a letter issued today to Lina Khan, Chair of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), ASTA underscored American Airlines’ aggressive strategies aimed at suppressing distribution competitors and threatening the survival of small travel agencies.

“ASTA recently learned that AA requires agencies to sign an egregiously one-sided agreement as a condition of participation as a preferred agency,” the letter states. “Among other things, it permits American to terminate the agency’s preferred status for any reason, or no reason at all, on thirty days’ notice. Practically speaking, the inclusion of this clause means that regardless of an agency’s achievement of the prescribed NDC booking thresholds on the measurement dates (or any other dates AA may arbitrarily choose to use instead), preferred status can be revoked at will at any time.”

Despite maintaining the core elements of its preferred travel agency program since its last modification on April 23, American Airlines has delayed its implementation from May 1 to July 11. This delay has given ASTA additional time to further its efforts against American Airlines’ monopolistic and anti-competitive actions, as evidenced by their involvement in today’s proceedings.

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