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ASTA Testifies at Hearing on Air Transportation Crisis

ASTA Testifies at Hearing on Air Transportation Crisis ( Alexandria, VA - ASTA testified today at a House Committee on Small Business hearing on How the Air Transportation Crisis is Hurting Travelers, Entrepreneurs and the Economy. In his testimony, ASTA's Senior Vice President of Legal and Industry Affairs Paul Ruden addressed the negative effect the current airline crisis is having on leisure and business travel, as well on the travel agency industry, specifically. Ruden highlighted two worrisome developments–additional ticket restrictions and checked baggage fees–that illustrate the troubling direction of the airline industry.

In his testimony, he said:

On May 16, 2008, Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters announced new aviation measures intended to address such longstanding issues as flight groundings, congestion, inadequate passenger protections, and limited consumer choice. ASTA applauds these measures. ASTA also welcomes the new DOT rule requiring that airlines provide complete on-time and tarmac delay data concerning flights that may depart from a gate more than once; flights that are cancelled after having left the gate; and flights that are diverted to another airport after departure.

While these are praiseworthy incremental steps, the unfortunate truth is that the short-term outlook for passenger aviation is not encouraging. Two recent examples illustrate the troubling direction of the industry. First, since May 1, nearly every major carrier has made significant changes to its fees on checked baggage. … From the perspective of travel agents, such practices come with an added burden: that of monitoring and mastering a Byzantine set of new and overlapping policies and policy revisions so as to be able to apprise customers of what to expect when traveling. ASTA and the Interactive Travel Services Association, the trade association for online travel companies and online distribution systems, recently sent a joint letter to the Department of Transportation to express their shared concern about the manner in which air carriers are disclosing (or failing to disclose) the terms of these new policies.

Another troubling practice is that of creeping ticketing restrictions. … As these practices continue, so, too, will the already dire erosion in goodwill and trust between carriers and the traveling public. Viewed in light of what the FAA projects to be an increase in the number of U.S. passengers from the current 689 million to 1.1 billion per year in 2025, the convergence of these industry practices paints a frankly bleak picture.

It is clear that the system as it stands is not able to accommodate current passenger levels to a satisfactory degree of service, and is far from equipped to keep pace with these projected increases. Moreover, amid the current economic slowdown, a preventable loss to the economy of $67 billion is nothing short of scandalous. ASTA has been at the forefront of calls to reform the passenger air system for years. We believe that the case for reform has never been more urgent or more plainly warranted than it is now. We urge the distinguished Members of the Committee and your colleagues in the Congress to rise to this considerable challenge and to set in place reforms that will inject some measure of good sense and accountability to the current system before it worsens further.

Testimony from the hearing is available for viewing by going to .

The mission of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) is to facilitate the business of selling travel through effective representation, shared knowledge and the enhancement of professionalism. ASTA seeks a retail travel marketplace that is profitable and growing and a rewarding field in which to work, invest and do business.

Ms. Kristina Rundquist VP, Communications American Society of Travel Agents Phone: (703) 739-8710 E-Mail:

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