(eTN) – United Airlines has rescinded its policy to restrict access of some travel agencies to the airline’s merchant account for sales of tickets by credit card. In a letter sent last week to the travel agencies affected by the policy, United retroactively waived penalties that had accrued since the policy was put in force on June 15, 2009.
When the policy went into effect, the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) obtained a delay for implementation by engaging congressional representatives to intervene, resulting in 17 members of the US House of Representative and 2 members of the US Senate writing letters to ask for the delay. Congressman Michael Arcuri (D-NY) then made the formal request to the US Government Accountability Office to prepare a study of consumer and industry issues that may arise if the policy were adopted throughout the airline industry.
According to Chris Russo, president and chairman of the board of ASTA: “This action would seem to reflect the new leadership at United Airlines, namely Dave Hilfman in Sales and Mark Bergsrud in Distribution. This is great news for all travel agents. It removes the threat that was perceived of an imminent expansion of the policy of all travel agents. It is also a strong sign that the management of the new United recognizes the value of the travel agent, and we hope it is a positive omen for future dialogue and cooperation. A lot is changing in the distribution marketplace, and we welcome this positive step from one of the most important airlines in the industry. Each side must recognize the interests of the other as we move forward.”