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DOT Fines Amadeus for Code-Share Disclosure Violations

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today fined Amadeus, a global distribution system (GDS), $95,000 for providing software to travel agencies that resulted in their websites failing to disclose to consumers when flights were being operated under a code-sharing arrangement.  Amadeus is the first GDS to be fined by DOT.

“When passengers buy an airline ticket, they have a right to know which airline will be operating their flight,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.  “We expect all companies that sell or facilitate the sale of air transportation – airlines, travel agents and global distribution systems alike – to comply with the laws we enforce.”

Under code-sharing, an airline will sell tickets on flights that use its designator code, but are operated by a different airline.  DOT rules require airlines and ticket agents to disclose to consumers, before they book a flight, if the flight is operated under a code-sharing arrangement.  The disclosure must include the corporate name of the transporting carrier and any other name under which the flight is offered to the public.  Under a new law, when tickets are purchased on the Internet, code-share information must be easily viewable on the first display of a website following a search for flights corresponding to a desired itinerary.  The Department sent a notice to airlines and ticket agents in January reminding them of the new code-share disclosure requirements.

As a GDS, Amadeus provides on-line travel agents with flight schedule and fare information for reservations and ticket sales and is subject to DOT’s requirements for ticket agents.  The company also supplies information technology services to air carriers and travel agents. For a time, Amadeus supplied travel agents with software that allowed them to obtain schedule and fare information, but add-on software was required to filter the data.  Many of Amadeus’ travel agent clients did not install the add-on software properly, leading to screen displays that did not provide the required disclosure of code-share flights.  As a ticket agent, Amadeus was responsible for making sure that the travel agents – many of whom are small businesses with limited resources to devote to technical matters – had the information they needed to install the software correctly
and were fully aware that improper installation could result in omission of code-share information, the Department’s Aviation Enforcement Office said.

In May alone, the Department fined five travel agents for failing to adequately disclose code-share arrangements on their websites.  In a number of these cases, the lack of code-share information was related to improperly installed software from Amadeus.

Thursday, September 15, 2011