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European Law Monitor NewsMore choice and lower costs when booking airline tickets: the Commission advocates more competition in airline ticket distribution

The European Commission has adopted a proposal to simplify and modernise the two-decade-old rules for computerised reservation systems (CRS). These systems are used by travel agents to book airline tickets on behalf of their customers. The revised rules will allow CRSs and subscribing travel agents to expand their offer and better compete in the airline distribution market.

'More competition in this market means lower distribution costs and airlines offering more travel options via the CRSs', said Commission Vice-President Jacques Barrot in charge of transport. 'Consumers who use the services of a travel agent for their airline bookings will enjoy an increased offer while still being protected against any abuse or discrimination'.

Computerised reservation systems[1] provide their subscribers with up-to-date information about the availability of flight tickets and fares. They permit travel agents to find flights, compare prices and make immediate confirmed reservations on behalf of their customers.

The revision of the Code of Conduct for computerised reservation systems will bring more competition in the field of airline ticket distribution by reducing booking fees and pushing airlines to offer more travel options via the CRSs. The revised rules will also ensure that all booking channels compete on a level playing field, again for the benefit of consumers.

The revised Code of Conduct introduces pricing freedom into the CRS market. Unlike today, CRSs and airlines will be free to negotiate the booking fees charged by the reservation systems and the information content provided by the airlines. More competition will contribute to higher efficiency in the sector in terms of price and service quality.

At the same time, the revised Code maintains safeguards to protect against competitive abuse by airlines that own or control CRSs. It contains provisions to ensure an unbiased presentation of travel options in the CRS displays as well as the display of 'all-inclusive' air fares. The Code also provides for the protection of personal data.
The Commission's proposal and its impact assessment report are published on the following website: .

[1] Also known as Global Distribution Systems or GDS.