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Some airlines lax about disclosure laws

New rules require that airlines provide on-time performance data for flights and that booking sites identify which airline is flying the plane.

By Karen Datko Dec 13, 2010 8:25PM

Would you hesitate to book a flight if you knew it was late 76% of the time? How about 45%?


Airlines are now required to put that information at your fingertips on their websites, but a review by The New York Times shows that some make that information difficult to find.

It's not the only mandatory disclosure that some travel websites appear reluctant to embrace.


A separate Buffalo News review shows that some sites don't make it immediately clear whether a regional airline -- rather than a major carrier -- is piloting a flight before you purchase a ticket online.


Some do and some don't

Continental and JetBlue are two airlines that clearly state how you can view on-time performance when you search for flights at their websites. Links to that info at the American and Southwest websites aren't as obvious, the Times reports.

But US Airways, Delta and United Airlines do not even hint that this information is available. Customers have to know to click on or hover over each flight number to make that flight's on-time record appear.

That rule doesn't apply to smaller airlines or to independent booking sites, but it does apply to regional partners of the bigs.


Meanwhile, The Buffalo News reviewed compliance with a new federal law that "requires airlines and travel websites to say which airline is operating the flight 'on the first display of the website following a search of a requested itinerary.'"


Again, the results were disappointing. The News reported:

Seven of the 10 travel websites that the News surveyed did not make it immediately clear to consumers that a regional airline was handling flights for the major carriers. ... And while four of the five major airlines clearly said which carrier is flying the plane, US Airways didn't.

The disclosure was lobbied for by families of the 50 people killed when a Colgan Air flight, known as Continental Flight 3407, crashed in Buffalo two years ago.


Would the airline actually providing the flight be of interest to you? It probably should. I'd want to know if I'm getting a top-notch crew or possibly more recent graduates of flight school.


Is the on-time information important, too? Note: It's also supposed to include how often the flight was more than a half-hour late or canceled.


The Air Transport Association said passengers aren't interested in such things, and made the improbable argument that more information at airline sites would drive consumers to sites like Expedia to book flights. Oh, please.


Actually, a look at the data might prompt a traveler to pick another carrier. The Times also said:

The data does show there can be a wide variation in delays. Among the 20 flights US Airways offered in a recent search for a trip from Philadelphia to La Guardia Airport in New York, all for the same price on the same day, the on-time record ranged from 24 to 88 percent. Eleven of the flights had an on-time performance below 55 percent.

When I flew from Great Falls, Mont., to Los Angeles and back last month on Delta, I had the option of a 2½-hour layover in Salt Lake City or a shorter one (45 minutes, if memory serves me right). Not knowing the on-time record was available, I picked the longer trip, just to be on the safe side. A review of the performance data might have prompted me to pick the earlier flight.


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