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Airline-Booking Rules Proposed

THE US Transportation Department has proposed new rules on computer-reservations systems in an effort to boost competition between the airlines that own them. The proposals would give users of the systems - mostly travel agents - access to all systems from one terminal; would allow airlines to drop out of some systems when participation is too expensive; and would shorten the maximum subscription terms vendors can require.

The changes would also allow travel agents to use equipment obtained from suppliers other than a vendor of one of the existing systems. This could include personal computers that allow access to all the competing systems.

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The new rules would ease travel agents' access to airlines' full range of products. The changes are also designed as a check on the domination of the booking process by major airlines.

The four systems operated by US travel agents are Sabre, owned by American Airlines; Apollo, owned by United Airlines, USAir, British Airways, KLM, Swissair, Alitalia, and Air Canada; SystemOne, owned by Continental Airlines Holding Corporation; and Worldspan, owned by Delta Air Lines, Northwest Airlines, Trans World Airlines, and six Asian carriers.

Airlines rely on travel agents for selling about 80 percent of their tickets.

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