Agency Groups Battling Commission Recall

ASTA lawsuit to fight efforts by trustees of bankrupt Renaissance Cruises

By: Theresa Norton Masek

Renaissance Cruises ceased operations almost two years ago, but its bankruptcy trustees are still trying to get money back from travel agents.

ASTA plans to launch a class-action lawsuit on behalf of its members fighting against the commission recall, and ARTA is closely watching the situation while consulting with its attorneys.

The bankruptcy trustees, appointed by the court to represent the creditors, are seeking repayment of commissions paid out on solid bookings made by agents on cruises that Renaissance failed to operate after its Sept. 25, 2001, bankruptcy filing.

“The principle is that travel agents earn commissions when they deliver to a cruise line a client who is ready, willing and able to sail,” said ASTA President Richard Copland.

“The subsequent failure of a cruise line to deliver the goods doesn’t change the fact that the travel agent has performed her job and it should not affect whether she receives payment.”

ARTA is not part of the class-action lawsuit, but applauds ASTA for moving ahead with it.

“I think people think travel agents are just whipping boys,” said Pat Funk, ARTA vice president of operations. “We are working with a lawyer in Miami, but I don’t know specifically what our bargaining chip is at this point.”

Letters recalling the commissions were still being received by agents last week, Funk said. ARTA has heard from about 15 agents regarding the issue.

“One of our members got a letter asking for $9,000 and another one who had a small group was asked for $14,000,” Funk said.

“It’s really, really tough. I suspect a lot of them will have an awfully hard time to pay it back, especially in the business climate today for agents.”