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U.S. Department of Transportation Provides Guidance to Airlines, Ticket Agents on Code-Share Disclosure Requirements

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Aviation Enforcement Office today provided guidance to airlines and ticket agents about the requirement for notifying passengers if a flight they are selling is being operated under a code-sharing arrangement.

Under code-sharing, an airline sells tickets on flights that use the airline’s code, but are actually operated by a different carrier. Longstanding DOT rules require airlines to disclose code-sharing arrangements to consumers before they book a flight, but legislation adopted in August 2010 has also clarified the requirements for Internet websites that sell airline tickets.

“When passengers buy an airline ticket, they have the right to know which airline will be operating their flight,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.  “For years we’ve required airlines to inform consumers about code-sharing arrangements, and we’ll be monitoring the industry closely to make sure they comply with the provisions of the new legislation.”

The new law makes it clear that when a consumer requests an airline itinerary on the Internet, any code-sharing arrangement must be included on the same screen and next to the itinerary.  Currently, code-sharing on some websites is being disclosed through a hyperlink or when one passes the cursor over a link. Under the existing Department rules, code-share disclosure must include the corporate name of the transporting carrier and any other name under which the flight is offered to the public.

The Department’s Aviation Enforcement Office will give airlines and ticket agents 60 days to modify websites that are now using links for code-share disclosure to bring them into compliance before instituting enforcement action. In the meantime, it will continue to enforce other aspects of the current rules aggressively, as it has in the past.  The guidance also reminded airlines that they are responsible for the compliance of their ticket agents, and put ticket agents that provide Internet ticket sales software to travel agents on notice that they must ensure that the software is in compliance with DOT’s rules, including the code-share disclosure requirements, or risk enforcement action.

Monday, January 10, 2011