The U.S. Department of Transportation handed down $175,000 in fines last week to five online travel sellers for failing to properly disclose code-share flights.
Consent orders were issued May 6 to Fareportal ($50,000), American Travel Solutions ($45,000), Wholesale Travel Center ($30,000), AirGorilla ($30,000) and Automobile Club of New York ($20,000).
The latest fines follow a DOT consent order about the code-share issued served April 26 on Airtrade International, which was fined $50,000.
All of the companies cited indicated they received flight information from a global distribution system, which was not providing transparent data about code-share flights.
The DOT explained that Fareportal, for example, noted that it uses two GDSs -- Sabre and Amadeus, according to its website -- and that it suspended one because it "was not providing the required code-share information..." The DOT wrote:
Fareportal states that after making the necessary changes to its system, the second GDS then issued a technical bulletin acknowledging the missing code-share information and correcting it for all of its online travel agent users.
Most, if not all, of the alleged violations of the DOT's code-share disclosure rule occurred in the second half of 2010 and have since been remedied.
All of the companies issued fines would only have to pay half of the penalties unless it is found over the next year that they have failed to comply with the cease and desist order.
The code-share rules were imposed to ensure travelers know which airlines they are actually flying when buying tickets for code-share flights, which sometimes are operated by small, regional airlines as well as larger partner airlines.