The Department of Transportation took a little-noticed action last month that could end up making it harder for consumers to use travel websites to compare prices and book the cheapest flights possible.
In March, the department suspended public comment on a "Request For Information" on how airlines are starting to prevent third-party travel websites from listing their flight schedules and prices online. The goal of the airlines is to force consumers to use their websites, but it was also a move that would likely make it harder for consumers to get information they need in one place to compare prices.
Initiated under President Obama, the review was sparked by fears that airlines were keeping flight schedules and prices from sites like Kayak, Expedia and Travelocity. According to a federal filing, some airlines had been issuing cease and desist letters to some third-party sites in order to keep flight information hidden from visitors to their websites.
Obama's effort could have resulted in an action to prevent airlines from stopping these third-party sites from posting that information. Under Obama, the Department of Transportation said it was trying to determine whether the airlines' actions "harm consumers and constitute an unfair and deceptive business practice."
But the Trump administration suspended public comment in order to allow the administration to review the issue.
"The suspension of the comment period will allow the president's appointees the opportunity to review and consider this action," the department stated in a Federal Register posting.
The airline industry claimed the decision as a victory for consumers and airlines alike.
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