American Airlines and travel websites fight over booking flights.
A fight between a major U.S. airline and some Web-based travel companies is having a ripple effect in the travel industry, as players take sides in a battle that could ultimately affect how fliers shop for tickets and find the best fares.
More than 125 of the nation’s biggest travel organizations and agencies, including online travel giant Expedia, have formed a coalition that is taking aim at a new booking system, preferred by American Airlines, that challenges the way most major airlines make their fares available to the public.
American says that its new, direct link will better inform travelers of services it offers for a fee, such as priority boarding, and also pare the airline’s costs. But the newly formed Open Allies for Airfare Transparency and other critics argue that bypassing the systems that pool fare information from multiple airlines will make it harder for the public to find the best deals, or even the best routes, to their destinations.
“This is not a coalition directed at any one airline,” says Andrew Weinstein, director of Open Allies. “It’s a coalition concerned about the possibility that airlines will build systems that circumvent the central distribution system. And if they do that, from the consumer and travel manager perspective, it becomes potentially impossible for them to be able to compare fares on a side-by-side basis.”
American Airlines is at the center of the storm. The carrier stopped listing its flights on Orbitz as of Dec. 21, when the online travel site would not adopt the new system. Less than two weeks later, Expedia, the largest online travel company in the world, stopped displaying American’s flights, saying the carrier’s new booking pipeline was questionable, would be costly to implement and would hinder travel agents’ ability to offer fliers the best choice.
American also got into a dispute with Sabre, the biggest of the centralized systems that funnel fare information to travel agents. After Sabre began placing American’s flights lower in its display to protest the system switch, American filed a lawsuit in Texas state court and on Jan. 10 won a judgment that temporarily barred Sabre from giving American’s flights lower priority.
Last Monday, the two sides said they’re putting their legal fight on hold until June as they try to iron out their differences.
Via USA Today