On Feb. 19, the Travel section published an Associated Press article quoting unnamed U.S. Postal Service sources, who said opposition from travel agents was instrumental in convincing airlines to drop plans for a one-day mail delivery of airline tickets. The story included a brief response from the Society of American Travel Agents, but the following letter from ASTA's president to outgoing Postmaster General Benjamin F. Bailar furnishes additional comment. A reply from Bailar was not available. Dear Mr. Ballar:
As president of the American Society of Travel Agents, Inc. (ASTA), I take strong exception to the AP wire service article . . . (that) concerned the decision by Braniff Airlines not to continue its experimental program with the U.S. Postal Service relating to the issuance and delivery of airline tickets.
The inaccurate and unfair criticism of travel agents in general and ASTA in particular in connection with the voluntary decision by Braniff not to continue and expand this experiment is a disservice to the more than 8,000 travel agent members of ASTA. An explanation from your office about this attack on the integrity of travel agents throughout the country would be appreciated.
It is obvious that the Postal Service spokesman who provided the background for the article and who declined "to be publicly identified . . ." and "preferred to remain anonymous" intentionally set out to blame the discontinuation of this program on travel agent opposition. In fact, according to Braniff, the decision was made voluntarily after Braniff concluded that "questions remained about economics" . . . of the program.
It is true that ASTA raised serious questions about the legality and propriety of the program since it involved the use of Postal Service manpower, equipment and facilities. However, these questions, unlike the anonymous attacks on travel agents by postal service spokesmen, were made openly and publicly in correspondence to your office, meetings with postal service attorneys, and in other discussions.
As you may be aware, the travel agency industry in the United States is a highly competitive one, providing excellent service to all segments of the travelling public and utilizing technological advances whenever feasible. Had the ticketing experiment with Braniff proved to be not only technically viable and economically feasible, but also available to other air carriers and travel agents and therefore all travel customers on an equal basis, it could have provided yet another technological advance to benefit the traveling public. The fact that it did not is unfortunate, but this failure should not be placed on the shoulders of travel agents, as the Postal Service spokesman chose to do.