Travel agency fined for breaking DOT codeshare-disclosure rule

By Bill Poling
The Transportation Department’s enforcement office assessed a $60,000 penalty on travel agency JTB USA for failing to disclose the identity of airlines involved in codeshare flights to callers on its telephone reservations line.

The enforcement action appears to be the first result of a program under which DOT investigators planned to make anonymous calls to large travel agencies to test their compliance with codeshare-disclosure rules.

In a consent order, the DOT said it made test calls to JTB in January and February, and found that its res agents “completely failed to make the required disclosure regarding codeshare arrangements ..., even when prompted by the caller.”

The disclosure rule generally requires that airlines and travel sellers disclose to all shoppers, prior to purchase, the name of the transporting carrier on codeshare flights.

In oral communications, the travel seller must state the corporate name of the transporting carrier, rather than just its brand name, such as “United Express.”

The DOT did not disclose how many calls it made.

In its defense, JTB said it has no record of complaints from consumers, and believes that the DOT investigation involved “only one or two” res agents. After learning of the DOT activity, the company said it issued compliance guidelines to all its U.S. agents.

To settle the matter, the company agreed to a $60,000 civil penalty, half of which will be waived if it refrains from repeat violations for one year.
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