Audit Reports

February 14, 2013

Growth of Domestic Airline Code Sharing Warrants Increased Attention

Requested by the Ranking Members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Subcommittee on Aviation
Project ID: AV-2013-045


On February 14, 2013, we issued a report regarding the Office of the Secretary’s (OST) and the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) oversight of domestic airline code share agreements. The number of code share agreements—in which a mainline air carrier contracts with a smaller regional carrier to provide flights to its hub airports—has grown rapidly in recent years, raising questions about both the oversight and consumer awareness of these agreements.

We found that OST and FAA are not required to review most domestic code share agreements. While OST is required to assess the potential economic impacts of certain agreements, the number of agreements that fall under the criteria for review is limited. We also found that some confusion still exists for consumers about which airline is operating their flight because carriers, travel agencies, and advertisers all disclose this information differently. Finally, as a safety regulator, FAA is not required to review any domestic code share agreements and does not voluntarily do so. FAA also does not have specific procedures to advance the Agency’s commitment of ensuring an equivalent level of safety between mainline air carriers and their code share partners. Instead, the Agency relies on its oversight of individual carriers to ensure the safe operation of passenger flights. We made five recommendations to enhance OST and FAA monitoring of domestic code share relationships and to increase code share transparency for consumers. In a joint response, OST and FAA concurred with two recommendations and partially concurred with three. We are requesting that the Agencies provide additional information or reconsider their response for two recommendations.