Airline Web Booking Rules Eased

The Justice Department has agreed with federal transportation officials that rules governing computer reservation systems for airline tickets should be eased because they don't result in lower prices.

The Transportation Department in November proposed changing the rules for the four U.S. computer reservation systems used by travel agents so all airlines won't have to participate in all four systems.

"Many of the regulations, which have been in effect for nearly 20 years, have failed to make the CRS (computer reservation systems) more competitive, may have imposed costs of their own on consumers, and should not be extended," the Justice Department said in a statement.

It recommended abandoning a requirement that computer reservation systems charge all airlines the same price for the same services. It did say rules should be kept that prevent the computer reservation systems from providing biased information and that require equal treatment in updating of airline information.

Federal transportation officials also have said there's no need to regulate the sale of airline tickets over the Internet because consumers can shop among competing Web sites.

Sabre, a computer reservation system not owned by airlines, has said the Transportation Department proposal could create higher prices and fewer choices for consumers.

Travel agents have accused the airlines that own Orbitz of stifling competition because they've cut commissions to travel agents and steered consumers to cheap fares available only on the airlines' own Web sites.

Computer reservation systems process more than 90 percent of the $57 billion in annual ticket sales by U.S. travel agents, the Justice Department said.

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