Code of Conduct on the Regulation and Operation of
Computer Reservation Systems (CRS)

 
Introduction
 
The Council of ICAO recognizes that computer reservation systems (CRSs) provide substantial benefits both to the air transport industry and to air transport users. However, such systems can also be used in abusive ways. To promote desirable practices and avoid harmful ones in the distribution of air carrier products through CRSs, the Council, on 17 December 1991, adopted the ICAO CRS Code of Conduct and urged States to follow it.
 
The Council undertook to review the Code in the light of experience. In the course of that review the Council has taken into account application of the Code by ICAO Contracting States, the need to strengthen the effectiveness of the Code, the implications of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) which includes computer reservation systems, the conclusions on CRSs of the Worldwide Air Transport Conference, and a revised resolution on CRSs (A31-13) adopted by the 31st Session of the ICAO Assembly. Concluding that a more formal system with worldwide applicability and use was warranted, the Council on 25 June 1996 adopted this revised Code to replace the existing Code in its entirety, effective 1 November 1996.
 
The Code necessitates no formal process of ratification, but each Contracting State that decides to follow it is expected to inform ICAO of its decision. The Code does not supplant or obviate individual or collective State regulation of CRS operations, nor does it imply that any particular means of regulation must be employed. A State may choose to employ the Code itself as a regulatory instrument; develop national CRS regulations based upon the Code; modify existing national regulations if necessary for consistency with the Code; employ the provisions of existing trade or competition legislation where relevant; require or encourage self-policing arrangements by CRS vendors, air carriers and subscribers; apply it in its bilateral or multilateral relations with other States through use of the appropriate ICAO Model CRS Clause, or use any combination of these and similar means.
 
Article 1 of the Code describes its purpose and objectives, Article 2 establishes a relevant terminology, while Article 3 defines the Code's scope of application. These are followed by articles defining certain obligations of States (Article 4), of CRS vendors (Articles 5 through 8), of air carriers (Article 9) and of subscribers to CRS services (Article 10). Article 11 deals with safeguarding the privacy of personal data while Article 12 concerns application, revisions and exceptions to certain provisions. The Code covers a rapidly changing field, since CRS activities are driven by fast-moving technological, regulatory and commercial developments. Consequently, Article 12 provides for the Council to revise the Code when circumstances warrant.
 
The text of the Code is followed by complementary notes on the application of each Article. These notes explain the purpose and intent of the Articles and identify relevant factors to be taken into account when applying the Code. 
 
This Code is based on transparency, accessibility and non-discrimination, and aims at enhancing fair competition among airlines and among computer reservation systems (CRSs) and at affording international air transport users access to the widest possible choice of options in order to meet their needs. To this end, the Code takes into account current market practices, the particular interests of developing countries, and the critical need for harmonization of the various national and regional CRS regulations.
 
In this Code:
  1. "Computer reservation system (CRS)" means a computer system that provides displays of schedules, space availability and tariffs of air carriers, and through which reservations on air transport services can be made;
     
  2. "System vendor" means an entity that operates or markets a CRS;
     
  3. "Participating carrier" means an air carrier that uses one or more CRSs to distribute its air transport services, either as the system vendor or as a result of an agreement with the system vendor; and
     
  4. "Subscriber" means an entity such as a travel agent that uses a CRS under contract with a system vendor for the sale of air transport services to the general public
  1. This Code shall apply to the distribution of international passenger air service products through CRSs. Where a State determines it is necessary to meet the purpose of the Code in Article 1, it shall also apply to computer information systems which provide displays of schedules, space availability and tariffs of air carriers, without the capability of making reservations.
     
  2. Where non-scheduled flights are included in principal displays they shall be identified as such, displayed under the same conditions as scheduled services and air transport users shall be informed of any special conditions applying.
     
A State that follows this Code shall:
  1. ensure compliance with this Code by air carriers, subscribers (where practicable) and system vendors for their CRS activities in its territory;
     
  2. remove regulatory obstacles, if any, to investment in CRSs domiciled in its territory by air carriers or other entities domiciled in the territory of another State which follows this Code;
     
  3. allow system vendors which comply with this Code to provide their CRS services in its territory on a non-discriminatory basis and consistent with any bilateral or multilateral agreements or arrangements to which the State is a party;
     
  4. treat all system vendors impartially regarding their CRS activities in its territory;
     
  5. permit the free flow across and within its national borders of the information needed to meet the reservation and related requirements of air transport users;
     
  6. use intergovernmental consultation processes to resolve any dispute involving another State following this Code, regarding the distribution of air transport products through CRSs, that cannot be resolved satisfactorily by the parties immediately concerned; and
     
  7. not allow or require air carriers or system vendors under its jurisdiction to take actions not in conformity with this Code, except to address, in an appropriate and proportionate manner, a lack of CRS reciprocity or the consequences of a failure of intergovernmental consultation processes to resolve any CRS dispute.
A system vendor shall:
  1. permit participation in its CRS by any carrier prepared to pay the requisite fees and to accept the system vendor's standard conditions; 
  2. not require carriers to participate in its CRS exclusively or for a certain proportion of their activities; 
  3. not impose any conditions on participation in its CRS that are not directly related to the process of distributing a carrier's air transport products through the CRS;
     
  4. not discriminate among participating carriers in the CRS services it offers, including timely and nondiscriminatory access to service enhancements, subject to technical or other constraints outside the control of the system vendor;
     
  5. ensure that any fees it charges are:
     
    1. nondiscriminatory;
       
    2. not structured in such a way that small carriers are unfairly precluded from participation; and
       
    3. reasonably structured and reasonably related to the cost of the service provided and used and shall, in particular, be the same for the same level of service.
       
  6. provide information on billing for the services of a system in a form (including, if requested, via or on electronic media) and in sufficient detail to allow participating carriers to verify promptly the accuracy of the bills;
     
  7. include in contracts a provision permitting an air carrier to terminate a contract by giving notice:
     
    1. which need not exceed six months, to expire not before the end of the first year, or
       
    2. as prescribed by national law.
       
  8. load information provided by participating carriers with consistent and nondiscriminatory standards of care, accuracy and timeliness, subject to any constraints imposed by the loading method selected by the participating carrier;
     
  9. not manipulate the information provided by carriers in any way that would lead to information being displayed in an inaccurate or discriminatory manner;
     
  10. make any information in its CRS directly concerning a single reservation available on an equal basis to the subscriber concerned and to all the carriers involved in the service covered by the reservation but to no other parties without the written consent of such carriers and the air transport user; and
     
  11. not discriminate among participating carriers in making available any information, other than financial information relating to the CRS itself, generated by its CRS in an aggregated or anonymous form.
A system vendor shall not:
  1. discriminate among subscribers in the CRS services it offers;
     
  2. restrict access by subscribers to other CRSs by requiring them to use its CRS exclusively or by any other means;
     
  3. charge prices conditioned in whole or in part on the identity of carriers whose air transport services are sold by the subscriber;
     
  4. require subscribers to use its CRS for sales of air transport services provided by any particular carrier;
     
  5. tie any commercial arrangements regarding the sale of air transport services provided by any particular carrier to the subscriber's selection or use of the system vendor's CRS;
     
  6. require subscribers to use its terminal equipment or prevent them from using computer hardware or software that enables them to switch from the use of one CRS to another, although it may require technical compatibility with its CRS; and
     
  7. require subscribers to enter into contracts which:
     
    1. exceed five years; or
       
    2. cannot be cancelled by the subscriber at any time after one year, with notice and without prejudice to recovery of actual costs; and
       
    3. contain provisions that undermine contract termination
A system vendor shall:
  1. make available a principal display or displays of schedules, space availability and tariffs of air carriers which is fair, nondiscriminatory, comprehensive, and neutral in terms of:
     
    1. not being influenced, directly or indirectly, either by the identity of participating carriers or by airport identity; and
       
    2. with the information ordered in a manner which is consistently applied to all participating carriers and to all city-pair markets;
       
  2. ensure that any principal display made available is as fully functional and at least as easy to use as any other display it offers;
     
  3. always provide a principal display except where there is a specific request from an air transport user which requires the use of another display;
     
  4. base the ordering of services in a principal display and the selection and construction of connecting services on objective criteria (such as departure/arrival times, total elapsed time between initial flight departure at origin and final flight arrival at destination, routing, number of stops, number of connexions, fares, etc.);
     
  5. provide to subscribers:
     
    1. a principal display of flight options ranked in the order of all non-stop flights by departure time, other direct flights not involving a change of aircraft and all connecting flights by elapsed journey time; or
       
    2. a principal display of flight options ranked in any other order based on objective criteria; or
       
    3. principal displays based on i) and ii);
       
  6. in the ordering of services in a principal display, take care that no carrier obtains an unfair advantage;
     
  7. in any principal display of schedule information:
     
    1. clearly identify nonscheduled flights, scheduled en-route changes of equipment, use of the designator code of one air carrier by another air carrier, the name of the operator of each flight, the number of scheduled en-route stops, and any surface sectors or changes of airport required; and
       
    2. clearly indicate that the information displayed regarding direct services is not comprehensive, if information on participating carriers' direct services is incomplete for technical reasons or if any direct services operated by non-participating carriers are known to exist and are omitted;
       
  8. in the selection and construction of connecting services in a principal display, select as many alternative (single or multiple) connecting points on a nondiscriminatory basis as is necessary to ensure a wide range of options;
     
  9. not intentionally or negligently display inaccurate or misleading information;
     
  10. in cases where States do not find it practicable to ensure that subscribers comply with Article 10, include appropriate provisions regarding compliance in its contract with each subscriber; and
     
  11. where participating carriers have joint venture or other contractual arrangements requiring two or more of them to assume separate responsibility for the offer and sale of air transport products on a flight or combination of flights, permit each carrier concerned up to a maximum of three to have a separate display using its individual designator code.
A system vendor shall:
  1. make available in written form and in a timely manner, on the written request of any interested party, information on the services offered by its CRS, the associated fees, the procedures it applies for entering and storing information in its CRS, and the methods it uses for developing, editing and updating information displays provided to subscribers; and
     
  2. refrain from practices which inhibit or impair competition among system vendors or air carriers.
An air carrier shall:
  1. be responsible for the accuracy of information it provides to a system vendor for inclusion in a CRS;
     
  2. in providing information on its air transport services to system vendors:
     
    1. ensure that it does not misrepresent services; and
       
    2. clearly identify nonscheduled flights, scheduled en-route changes of equipment, use of the designator code of one air carrier by another air carrier, the name of the operator of each flight, the number of scheduled en-route stops and any surface sectors or changes of airport required;
       
  3. not refuse, except where legitimate commercial or technical reasons exist, to participate in any CRS used by subscribers in a State where the carrier holds a dominant market position, if it is financially linked or otherwise affiliated with any other CRS (other than as a result of a participation agreement with the system vendor);
     
  4. not refuse, except where permitted by law, to provide information on schedules or tariffs to a system vendor whose CRS is used by subscribers in the carrier's State of domicile, if it already provides such information to another system vendor whose CRS is used by subscribers in that State; and
     
  5. not require subscribers to use a particular CRS for sales of its air transport services, nor tie any commercial arrangements with subscribers regarding the sale of its air transport services to the subscriber's selection or use of a particular CRS where:
     
    1. the air carrier has a financial interest or is otherwise affiliated with that CRS, or
       
    2. this would unfairly favour that CRS.
A subscriber shall:
  1. use or provide a principal display meeting the requirements of Article 7 for each transaction, except where a preference indicated by an air transport user requires the use of another display;
     
  2. not manipulate information supplied by a CRS in a manner that would result in inaccurate or misleading information being given to an air transport user;
     
  3. be responsible for the accuracy of any information it enters into a CRS;
     
  4. where nonscheduled flights are included in a CRS, inform an air transport user if a flight is nonscheduled and of any special requirements concerning it;
     
  5. inform air transport users of all scheduled en-route changes of equipment, use of the designator code of one air carrier by another air carrier, the number of scheduled en-route stops, the name of the operator of each flight, and any surface sectors or changes of airport required in any itinerary provided; and
     
  6. not make fictitious reservations through a CRS.
  1. States shall take appropriate measures to ensure that all parties involved in CRS operations safeguard the privacy of personal data.
     
  2. Air carriers, system vendors, subscribers and other parties involved in air transportation are responsible for safeguarding the privacy of personal data included in CRSs to which they have access, and may not release such data without the consent of the passenger.
  1. This Code shall be applicable with effect from 1 November 1996. It may be revised by the Council when it deems that circumstances warrant, and any revised Code shall supersede its predecessor in its entirety.
     
  2. A State which commits itself to follow the Code shall do so by notifying ICAO. A State which decides to discontinue such commitment shall do so by notifying ICAO.
     
  3. A State which is recognized by the United Nations as a developing country and which has notified ICAO that it follows the Code may, until 31 December 2000, decline to follow Article 4 c) provided:
     
    1. it notifies ICAO of such action; and
       
    2. such action is consistent with any bilateral or multilateral agreement or arrangement to which the State is a party.
       
  4. Any State which has notified ICAO of its commitment to follow the Code and which allows or requires actions not in conformity with the Code in accordance with Article 4 g) shall notify ICAO of such actions.
     
  5. The Council will periodically advise all States of notifications made pursuant to clauses b) through d) above.
     
  6. Multi-access CRSs are exempt from compliance with clauses h) through k) of Article 5 and clauses a) through h) and k) of Article 7.