Airlines deny DOT authority

The big airlines are not putting their Web-only discount fares in the GDSs used by travel agents, and they say the Transportation Department can`t make them.

Responding to a complaint by ASTA, a half-dozen major carriers all said the DOT has no jurisdiction since deregulation to compel airlines to make certain fares available through certain distribution outlets -a long-accepted practice in other unregulated industries.

ASTA had said the refusal of the majors to put the cheap fares in agency GDSs amounts to an unfair competitive practice, and it called on the DOT to force the airlines to make the fares available to agents through the GDSs.

But the airlines cited various court rulings holding that principals cannot be accused of competing unfairly with their agents because principals and agents are, by definition, not competitors. Air Canada, also named in the ASTA complaint, said the DOT can`t “intervene in a private contractual relationship between airlines and their agents.”

ASTA`s complaint named Air Canada, America West, American, American Trans Air, Continental, Delta, Northwest, US Airways, United and Orbitz.