FORT WORTH, Texas, Oct. 6 / Travelocity.com (Nasdaq: TVLY - news), the leading travel Web site, today re-emphasized that its flight displays are neutral and unbiased, and it reiterated its call for the Department of Transportation (DOT) to extend anti-bias rules to all online travel sites. It also asked its independent auditors to confirm that Travelocity.com displays fare and flight information without bias.
“Reordering flight information to preference certain airlines is bad for consumers, and it hurts our reputation as an industry if there is a perception of bias,” said Terrell B. Jones, president and chief executive officer of Travelocity.com. “We should be willing—as an industry—to submit ourselves to the same regulations that already apply to computer reservations systems (CRS’s) used by brick and mortar travel agents.”
As an online travel agent, Travelocity.com has a system access agreement with Sabre, its CRS. Travelocity.com republishes the data it receives from Sabre in a manner that is easily understood by and accessible to its base of 22 million members. Travelocity.com does not use carrier identity or any form of bias in republishing those displays.
In requesting that its auditors examine its site, Travelocity.com asked that they independently confirm that Travelocity.com does not use carrier identity in ordering the display of flights, schedules, fares or seat availability.
In September, Travelocity.com asked the DOT to update the long-standing CRS rules to protect consumers by ensuring the accuracy and completeness of information when they shop for and purchase air travel, whether via the Internet or offline. Travelocity.com specifically recommended that the rules on display bias (the use of carrier identity in reordering flight displays) apply to all Internet travel sites offering flight information for more than one carrier. Travelocity.com said that the rule should apply to online agents, traditional travel agents offering a Web site, airline sites that allow interline bookings, or airline joint venture sites.
Additionally, Travelocity.com recommended that the DOT should carefully differentiate between display bias and advertising.
“Online advertising is good for consumers and competition, as it increases the number of fare sales and informs consumers about special deals, particularly those offered by lesser-known carriers that might otherwise be overlooked,” Jones said.
“In much the same way that advertising does not bias editorial coverage at news outlets, advertising from air suppliers does not impact how Travelocity.com displays flight information to consumers,” Jones added.
Travelocity.com also reiterated that new DOT rules should ensure that airlines owning online travel agencies are not allowed to discriminate against competing sites by restricting access to full and fair information regarding prices, inventory and schedules.