Europe's carriers are concerned by a US Department of Transportation (DoT) decision to phase out rules governing computer reservations systems (CRS) and effectively deregulate the market by August. The move has drawn little domestic attention.

Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus, secretary general of the Association of European Airlines, says: "Regulators on both sides of the Atlantic should ensure that the market power of the distribution systems cannot be abused." The AEA, the club of Europe's mainline carriers, said it was concerned that elimination of rules prohibiting bias in the display of fares data could eventually force airlines to pay the system owners for preferred display.

European and Canadian regulators are reviewing their rules governing distribution systems, and are focusing on the issues of consumer protection from listings that favour carriers.

The DoT stresses that it would monitor the CRS industry to watch for possible airline moves to establish control over a system. The DoT, which made its decision after seven years' of review, acknowledges that Orbitz, the US airlines online service, could enter the fray and says it would mount an operational review if it did so.

Source: Airline Business