The U.S. Transportation Department fined several online travel agencies for failure to comply with regulations that require disclosure of the operating carrier of a code-share flight, but the agencies all blamed their GDS providers.
At least two GDS companies were involved; TTU has learned that one of them was Amadeus.
The online companies and their fines are are Fareportal, which powers CheapoAir.com, $50,000; AirGorilla, $30,000; American Travel Solutions $45,000; Automobile Club of New York, $20,000, and Wholesale Travel Center, $30,000.
Last month, it also fined Airtrade, a unit of BCD Holdings that operates Vayama, a seach engine for international flights, $50,000.
As is usual with DOT fines, half the amounts will be forgiven if the parties remain in compliance for one year.
Each of the DOT's consent orders included response from the online company "in mitigation." The language of Airtrade's was typical:
"Airtrade states that the flight listings on its website that did not disclose code-share flights were in part due to a failure by its Global Distribution System provider to properly identify flights that involved code-share segments.
"Once Airtrade received notice of the code-share disclosure requirements, it promptly brought its website into compliance."
One of the online agencies said its GDS provided a "fix" that brought its agency customers into compliance in January.
An executive of one of the companies wondered why the DOT was not pursuing the matter with the GDS companies who provided the non-compliant data.
A DOT spokesman, however, said the department is looking into the role that the GDSs played.
The code-share disclosure regulation has been on the books since 1999. It requires code-share flights to be marked with asterisk and that the name of the operating carrier is disclosed.
But the issue gained new attention when a Colgan Air Dash 8 flying as a Continental Connection flight crashed near Buffalo, N.Y., in February 2009, killing 50 people.
Some of the victims' family members said their relatives had no idea that the Colgan flight was not operated by Continental Airlines.