Carry-on Bag Decision Makes Booking Standards a Point of Contention

Standards for capturing and booking baggage fees and other ancillary services are becoming a point of contention between travel agents, airline distribution channels, and politicians, according to Travel Weekly. There is a greater sense of urgency in the search for a method to capture and display ancillary fees because of the backlash in Washington following last month's decision by Spirit to charge for carry-on bags.

On the distribution side, ARC, the airlines and global distribution systems company, is looking to develop technology to allow agents to book for their clients all the services and products the airlines have been unbundling from their base fares in the last two years.

It's affecting politics as well. Many elected officials and government agencies are attacking ancillary fees as anti-consumer but are also trying to find ways to tax them.

Technology designed to capture and book the fees must also be flexible enough to accommodate new fees implemented by the airlines and future government intervention such as outlawed, discontinued fees or new taxes on allowable fees, or both.

Attempts to develop technology to enable agents to book ancillary services are taking place across the globe. In Europe, Amadeus on May 10 said it was "weeks away" from launching a pilot program with four unnamed airlines in various international markets, which is designed to allow ticket distribution channels to capture and book baggage fees and other extra charges as part of the overall flight price.

Amadeus' airline distribution strategy director, Robert Buckman, said the goal is to help develop industry-wide protocols for managing ancillary fee transactions while making them as transparent as possible to passengers.

In the U.S., ARC plans to launch a program this year to electronically capture ancillary revenue transactions with varying degrees of GDS and travel agent involvement.

The issue has focused the Washington spotlight on the growing number of fees carriers are coming up with to earn more ancillary revenue.

Between 2008 and 2009, revenue from ancillary fees and other revenue increased 42 percent, to $7.8 billion, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported recently. But Sorensen said those numbers might be misleading because not all carriers are reporting ancillary revenue in the same manner.

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