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Travel Agents

 September 17, 2001
Congress Urged To Extend Financial Relief Legislation To Travel Agents

 The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) today sent a letter to Congress asking that it include financial relief for travel agencies when considering legislation to aid the airline industry as a result of Tuesday's terrorist attack.

"There are many other groups of firms that are normally thought of as separate 'industries' but that in fundamental reality are an integral part of what the airlines do," wrote ASTA President and CEO Richard M. Copland. "Travel agencies are among those, and it is not too strong a statement to make that without travel agencies, the airline industry probably cannot function."

Copland went on to argue that travel agencies, which handle an estimated 75 percent of air travel sales, not only depend on air travel commissions but upon the computer reservation services that are mostly owned by the airlines. Air travel still represents the vast majority of business done by most agencies, leaving these primarily small businesses flooded with calls from consumers needing assistance rebooking, and now with calls from consumers seeking refunds and cancellations. This crisis impacts an industry already experiencing severe financial problems, noted Copland, as agents have endured repeated commission cuts by airlines in the past six years.

"We seek not to be at the head of the line. But we must call upon the Congress, while it is considering relief for the airlines, to include in any aid package relief for other Americans similarly affected and crucially important to the eventual recovery," said Copland.