SEPTEMBER 20, 1999 -- Last month, Travel Agent Arbiter William McGee ruled in favor of a small Los Angeles-based travel agency to relieve it of liability to the Airlines Reporting Corp. for tickets stolen in 1997. The decision came as the result of a request for reconsideration by Pedroza Travel after the arbiter first ruled in favor of ARC on April 29.
The arbiter ruled in favor of ARC in the beginning because three boxes of 1,000 ATB (automated ticket/boarding pass) tickets had been stolen from a locked filing cabinet at the agency. The agency owner wrote on its stolen ticket report that it had one printer, while ARC rules that one box of automated tickets is allowed for each ticket printer maintained in the agency location.
Pedroza argued that it had in fact complied with ARC's security rules and actually had three Worldspan printers on its premises and not one. According to the ruling of request for reconsideration, "Mr. Pedroza testified that he originally wrote that there was just one printer on the ARC report because he was in a rush to get the stolen ticket numbers to ARC and he didn't understand the word "maintain" in the question on the form, and assumed it might only refer to ATB printers, of which there were admittedly only one 'maintained' on premises." However, the basis of the request for reconsideration came from Pedroza's belief that all three printers were capable of printing tickets.
The arbiter came to the conclusion that "whether the three printers were 'in use' in printing the specific types of tickets stolen is not relevant."
San Francisco-based attorney Alexander Anolik took on the agency's case and said that both he and Pedroza Travel interpreted that the word "maintained," regarding the three printers, meant "I pay each month and I can use it. Whether I am using it or not, I have it there and I am maintaining it."
He said ARC interpreted it to mean that a ticket printer had to be printing tickets a the time and, "I said, if that is what you meant, why don't you say it? Because they did not clearly define what "maintain" was, the arbiter ruled against them."
Anolik said that beyond definitions, the decision will be important "to other business entities that have lost tickets and been held responsible." The ruling will "start giving these travel agencies some due process. We are going to have additional requests for reconsideration by additional agencies trying to protect themselves," he said.
As for the Airlines Reporting Corp., late last month it filed a response to the arbiter decision and asked for reconsideration.
ARC spokesperson Allan Mutén said that the fact the decision was overturned was "somewhat unprecedented" and would not comment on the implications.
"We are obviously not in agreement with the latest development," Mutén said, "but it is still a current issue so it is not a good idea to comment at this point."
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