updated 5/14/2009 6:46:21 PM ET 2009-05-14T22:46:21

The European Union says airline Web sites have fewer hidden prices and conditions than they did two years ago, making it easier for customers to find the best deals.

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It says 115 of the 137 airline Web sites it investigated — after a preliminary screening of 447 sites — have cleared up misleading information and that 52 of 67 major airlines operating in the European Union now have a "clean bill of health."

EU Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva said three major holdouts, KLM, Air France and British Airways, promised Thursday they would fall into line with the EU standards.

The standards have been agreed to with the airline industry. It is up to national authorities to impose penalties but the EU hopes public exposure will be the best deterrent to unsatisfactory practices.

Kuneva said several airlines did not cooperate with the EU Commission, including Aeroflot, Emirates, Northwest, Olympic Airlines and Turkish Airlines. "They never gave us a reply," she said.

Over the past two years, the EU has approached airlines and specialized Web sites to tackle "the plague of hidden charges, pre-ticked boxes and nasty surprises in the small print of airline Web sites," Kuneva said.

She said it was essential during the financial crisis to be able to pick the best deal available.

"Especially in these hard times, people need transparent prices. They need to be able to compare offers, shop around," she told reporters.

Customer complaints about misleading bargain fares triggered the probe, the EU said. Hefty charges and government taxes were often not part of the advertised price. Travel insurance is also sometimes be tacked on automatically before checkout.

Air travel has boomed in Europe in the past two decades as a wave of low-cost carriers has slashed prices and opened up new routes.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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