Buffalo Plane Crash Leads to Tough Law on Code-Share Flights

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U.S. airlines and online travel agencies have until March 11 to comply with a new requirement to clearly display the name of the carrier that is actually operating a flight.

The new focus on code-sharing displays arose after a Colgan Air Newark-Buffalo flight crashed near Buffalo in February 2009. All 50 people aboard -- passengers and crew -- were killed.

All major U.S. airlines engage in code-sharing, which means a ticket is marketed and sold by one airline, using its own code and flight number, but the flight is operated by another airline.

In many cases, the operating carrier is a regional airline flying smaller aircraft.

The Transportation Department has required airlines to disclose those arrangements for several years, but the law is about to get tougher.

Currently, the identity of the operating carrier on some code-share flights is identified by "mousing over" a link, the department says.

The new law will require the airline's name to be included on the same screen next to the itinerary.

The Colgan Air flight was marketed as a Continental Connection flight. The aircraft was a 74-seat Bombardier Dash 8 Q400, a two-engine turboprop that was owned and operated by Colgan Air.

"When passengers buy an airline ticket, they have the right to know which airline will be operating their flight," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement.

"For years we've required airlines to inform consumers about code-sharing arrangements, and we'll be monitoring the industry closely to make sure they comply with the provisions of the new legislation," LaHood said.

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