Civil Aeronautics Board Chairman Dan McKinnon has said the board will make rules to guarantee that airlines and consumers get access to the best information about flights and fares in computer reservation systems.
McKinnon's comments came Tuesday after he received a letter from the House Public Works aviation subcommittee strongly recommending such measures in the systems most travel agents use to sell airline tickets.
Rep. Norman Y. Mineta (D-Calif.), subcommittee chairman, and Rep. John Paul Hammerschmidt (R-Ark.), ranking minority member, said in the letter that recent hearings produced "allegations of anticompetitive practices and consumer deception" that "were sufficiently persuasive to raise concern about the potential for abuse and to warrrant consideration by the board of the need for interim measures."
McKinnon said in a telephone interview, "I think we will definitely have a rulemaking." Rules that might result, he said, "would take a close look at insuring fair access" to information for airlines and consumers.
American and United airlines both sell computer reservation systems and between them have locked up about 80 percent of the market. The hearings produced considerable testimony to the effect that the American and United systems were programmed to the disadvantage of other airlines and, ultimately, to the disadvantage of the consumer seeking the best flight or the cheapest fare, or both.
The CAB has been somewhat reluctant to launch a major investigation or rulemaking proceeding, partly because the Justice Department has a civil antitrust investigation under way and partly because the CAB itself is scheduled to go out of business Jan. 1, 1985. However, as Mineta and Hammerschmidt noted, the Justice probe could take years. In the meantime, CAB action could protect consumer and competitor interests.