US agents’ association files ‘unfair trade’ complaint against American Airlines

The UK Business Travel Association (BTA) has joined the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) in demanding the US Department of Transportation (DOT) restore full access to American Airlines air fares via global distribution systems (GDSs).

ASTA, US equivalent of travel association Abta, submitted a complaint to the DOT at the end of July accusing American Airlines of “unfair trade practice” .

The carrier, transatlantic joint-venture partner of British Airways, removed 40% of its fare inventory from distribution via GDSs in April as it seeks to drive third-party bookings through new distribution capability (NDC) technology.

NDC allows Amazon-style retailing of airline tickets through travel management companies (TMCs), travel agents and OTAs.

However, it requires adoption of new technology and travel retail sector critics insist distribution systems are not ready to service bookings, while much of the retail trade is locked out of access to the cheapest fares.

ASTA’s complaint to the DOT argues American Airlines has caused “significant economic and non-economic injury to consumers, travel agencies and TMCs” .

It alleges this “resulted in substantially higher air ticket prices for consumers and frustrated TMCs in fulfilling their duty of care to business travellers” .

The complaint calls on the DOT to order the airline to discontinue the practice and restore all fares in all channels.

It also urges a review of “the current state of competition in the (US) domestic airline industry” .

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