Caribbean Agencies 'Overlooked' in Caps Payout
"We were capped on February 1995, the same as the domestic agents." -- Bernice Cordero, ASTA, Puerto Rico/U.S.V.I. chapter
By Michael Milligan
Originally Published on: TravelWeekly.com
WASHINGTON -- At least 600 travel agencies in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands did not get checks from the settlement of the 1995 commission caps case, even though they were subject to the caps.
In what appears to be an oversight, the "class" in the class-action suit against the seven capping airlines was limited to agencies in the 50 states. ARTA lawyer Alexander Anolik said the class was narrowed to agencies in the U.S. that sold flights on the defendant airlines within the U.S. and to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Anolik said it appeared as if agencies on the islands were covered because it included travel to the islands, but Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and other U.S territories were not specifically defined as part of the U.S. That subtlety apparently was "overlooked" during the proceedings, according to Bernice Cordero, president of ASTA's Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands chapter.
Now that agents in the U.S. have received their shares of the settlement, agents on the islands have come to realize they were left out in the cold. "We were capped on February 1995, the same as the domestic agents," Cordero said. "We also have been subject to the caps for three years."
During the period covered by the settlement, sales by agents on the islands on the capping airlines were estimated at $605 million, a figure that was not factored into the disbursement formula.
A spokesperson for ASTA, which was a party in the suit, said the Society has become aware of the oversight. "We are working very closely with class council and Bernice Cordero to get [the agencies] their share of the money," he said.
The spokesman would not discuss how 600 agencies could be excluded from the settlement. "The issue right now is getting these agents their share of the money," he said. "We will worry about the details of how and why [this occurred] after they have their money in their hands."
But, Anolik said, "The only money that could possibly be left over would be for a few [agencies] that could not be found. The pot was divided by the amount of participants. Therefore, there cannot be anything left over. So that is not an option."
Cordero said she will hold a chapter meeting with her members Jan. 27 in San Juan to review the options available, which include mounting a commission caps suit on their own.