Shake-up of bookings could spell lower faresNew plans could mean you see more fares

29 August 2008

New proposals on air and rail travel to be debated by the European Parliament next week could mean lower prices and increased choice for consumers from next summer.

The plans would streamline the various computerised reservation systems used by high-street and online travel agents to book airline and some train tickets, and would prevent airlines from skewing search results in favour of their own fares.

Currently, there are three computerised air fare reservation systems that travel agents use and several airlines own shares in one of them. 

Choice of fares

European chiefs are concerned that there's potential for the airlines to tweak the system to push their fares up the results, even if they aren't the best price. They added that they had no evidence this was going on.

The new proposals are designed to ensure you get the same choice of fares whatever travel agent you use.

They would also require the fare displayed on the reservation system to be the price you pay – inclusive of all taxes, charges, surcharges and fees.

Discounts

Travel agents will still be allowed to apply their own fees or discounts to the final price – however these will have to be made clear to consumers.

For flights of up to 90 minutes, the systems would have to show details of alternative train services serving the same route – including connecting services.

In future, systems would also provide consumers with information about carbon dioxide emissions and fuel consumption for their choice of flight or rail journey.

Choice

Timothy Kirkhope MEP, who worked on the proposals, said: ‘Flight information provided by airlines to travel agents must be timely and comprehensive to give consumers the fairest and fullest possible choice available.’

Around 60% of scheduled airline bookings are carried out using a computerised reservation system. The rest are booked directly with airlines, including most flights on no-frills carriers.

Some airlines won't let you book tickets through a travel agent, but you have to book direct.

Ryanair recently hit the headlines after saying it would cancel reservations that consumers had made through third-party websites.