Despite the fact they are still short of raising the $1 million
required to retain a high-profile San Francisco attorney, an ad hoc
group of travel agents intends to press its attack against the
major airlines for alleged antitrust activities.
“We do not have $1 million yet,” said Jan-Marie Brown,
coordinator for a group called ATTAC (Antitrust Travel Agent
Compensation). Brown, owner of Happy Travel in Carson City, Nev.,
declined to specify how much the group has raised, saying simply,
“We have a lot of money.”
San Francisco attorney Joseph Alioto is most likely the man who
will bear ATTAC’s banner should the case proceed. He’s already
advising the group, although a suit has yet to be filed.
ATTAC’s proposed action against the airlines is similar to
others filed in North Carolina and Los Angeles in its intent: to
force the carriers to compensate travel agents for commissions lost
in recent years. It differs from the other lawsuits in its
mechanics. Unlike the North Carolina case, and, perhaps, the Los
Angeles action, ATTAC’s effort is not a class-action suit. Instead,
it aims to aggregate agencies willing to put their money where
their hearts are.
“Financial commitment from travel agents helps ensure work
commitment,” Brown said.
Agencies with ARC sales of less than $5 million in 2001 are
required to ante up $1,200. Larger agencies must contribute
“This is not a case where we can all just sit back and say, ‘Ah,
we’re just going to let somebody else do all the work for us,’”
Brown said. Not only are ATTAC agents responsible for the retainer,
they’re “individually responsible for gathering our documents [so
we] can provide Mr. Alioto’s law office with everything he needs to
win this case.”
Alioto contended that the case is eminently winnable.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I think what has happened is an absolute
The United States Department of Justice ... has been slack in
its duties and responsibilities to the people. So has the Federal
Trade Commission. That the government is doing nothing about it is
Alioto is talking to travel agents across the country, trying to
convince them ATTAC’s approach is best.
“What I have told them is I believe that the way they can
properly pursue the damages that have been caused by them is by
individually suing the airlines not as members of a class action,”
ATTAC’s prospective attorney said the damages sustained by the
tens of thousands of travel agents represented in the class actions
cannot be shown or recovered. He’s telling agents that if they hope
to recover the real damages, they should proceed as individual
“To do that, they would have to pay a substantial amount of
money for the retainer to get the case going,” he said.
Brown said ATTAC has financial commitments from less than a few
hundred agencies, but 700 to 800 agencies intend to join ATTAC’s
“Right now, we’re calling in the markers. If you say you want to
be part of this, now’s the time,” she said.
Despite ATTAC’s advocacy of its own position, Brown said: “We
most definitely do not want anybody to opt out of the class-action
lawsuit in North Carolina unless they are a committed plaintiff in
the ATTAC suit.”
Brown said the core philosophy of her organization is to
“Get yourself behind one of these cases,” she said. “If you’re
not going to be a plaintiff in the ATTAC suit, then get yourself
behind the Sarah Hall suit. Learn about it, support it. Do what you
can to further the cause.”