Transportation to lift rules on airline reservation systems

Transportation to lift rules on airline reservation systems

The Transportation Department will on Jan. 31 eliminate most rules governing the computer reservation systems used by travel agents, reflecting changes in how airline tickets are bought and sold.

The regulations were put in place in a pre-Internet era when reservations systems were owned and operated by airlines and served as virtually the only source for airline ticket booking and sales. No U.S. carrier owns or operates a CRS now, and consumers can purchase tickets from a range of sources, including independent travel Web sites, air carriers and CRS Web sites.

Two remaining rules will be phased out at the end of July, Transportation said Wednesday. The first requires computer reservation systems to refrain from biasing flight listings in favor of some airlines to the disadvantage of others. The second prohibits a CRS from requiring an airline to provide all fares, including exclusive low-cost fares, as a condition of participation in its system. These two restrictions are being lifted later to give the market adequate time to adjust.

A CRS provides information on airline schedules, fares and seat availability to travel agencies and allows agents to book seats and issue tickets. Currently four computer reservation systems operate in the United States: Sabre, Galileo, Worldspan and Amadeus. Almost all travel agents have relied on these systems, and because few agents use more than one system, carriers have had to participate in each system to assure that all agents have access to their flight information, Transportation said.

The department said it retains its authority to pursue future regulations or enforcement if necessary.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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