THE US Transportation Department has proposed new rules on computer-reservations systems in an effort to boost competition between the airlines that own them. The proposals would give users of the systems - mostly travel agents - access to all systems from one terminal; would allow airlines to drop out of some systems when participation is too expensive; and would shorten the maximum subscription terms vendors can require.
The changes would also allow travel agents to use equipment obtained from suppliers other than a vendor of one of the existing systems. This could include personal computers that allow access to all the competing systems.
The new rules would ease travel agents' access to airlines' full range of products. The changes are also designed as a check on the domination of the booking process by major airlines.
The four systems operated by US travel agents are Sabre, owned by American Airlines; Apollo, owned by United Airlines, USAir, British Airways, KLM, Swissair, Alitalia, and Air Canada; SystemOne, owned by Continental Airlines Holding Corporation; and Worldspan, owned by Delta Air Lines, Northwest Airlines, Trans World Airlines, and six Asian carriers.
Airlines rely on travel agents for selling about 80 percent of their tickets.