Angry that the deadline for ticket voids may be reduced to just one
day, ASTA has asked the Airline Reporting Corp. to produce evidence
of its claim that fraudulent voids are rampant.
In a letter to ARC President David Collins, ASTA President
Richard Copland asserted that ARC wants to improve the bottom lines
of its airline owners “at the expense of travel agents.” He also
said that Collins’ invitation to discuss the potential changes in
the voiding procedure, as well as daily reporting, is a farce.
“And the consultation is in fact only about how and, perhaps
when, to make these changes, not about whether the changes are
justified by anything other than exercise of airline market power
over travel agents and their clients,” he said.
ARC said the voiding function was designed to cancel an
erroneous transaction or a transaction that had not actually taken
“The system is now being abused because the functionality is
being used widely to cancel out transactions that did take place,”
Collins said. He added that ARC has seen an increase in fraudulent
voids, including cases in which travel agents voided all their cash
“With the increasing losses the airlines have to underwrite
resulting from improper voiding, the airlines are seriously
questioning the integrity of the system,” Collins said. “The
dialogue we are initiating will focus around shortening the time
available for voiding transactions.”
Allan Muten, an ARC spokesman, confirmed that a small number of
agencies are involved, but he said the loss to the airlines to date
is easily “seven figures.” ARC processes more than $1 billion in
transactions per week.
Agents now must report a void on the Monday following the end of
each Monday-through-Sunday sales week. In some cases, they can
report as late as Thursday, giving them 7 to 10 days to report the
ARC wants to change the deadline to midnight of the day after
Fraudulent voids have been around awhile, Muten said, but the
airlines’ tracking technology has made it easier to catch. In a
recent spot check, for example, the carriers were “appalled” at
what they found, Muten said.
As to ASTA’s request for information, Muten said that ARC will
cooperate as long as it can honor individual carriers’ competition
The more agents learn about ARC’s plans, the angrier they
“It seems to me that by letting ARC call it ‘fraudulent
voiding,’ we are letting them set the agenda,” said Stephen Shields
of Shields World Travel in Pleasanton, Calif. “The fact is that,
for decades, travel agents have been providing service to the
customers that the airlines have not.
“Instead of improving the system, they just made it equally bad
for everyone,” he said.
Steve Cosgrove of Dynamic Travel and Cruises in Southlake,
Texas, said: “Fraud, I believe, means the intention to steal. An
honest agent mistake is not fraud. ARC better make real sure of
their facts before they start throwing that word around.”
Sheila Hyman of Tanforan Travel in San Bruno, Calif., added:
“Maybe I just don’t know the crooks in this industry, because all
agents I know do not void except for legitimate reasons. I would
love to see their figures.”