American Airlines War With Travel Agencies Heats Up
UPDATE: American and travel agencies have resolved this issue.
A couple weeks ago, I wrote about American Airlines pulling its flights from popular online travel agency Orbitz. To sum it up, American wants all of the companies selling its tickets to use a new, proprietary system and not the standard ticket pricing systems (GDS) that most travel agencies use. This move was a slap in the face to Orbitz and sent a message to the other online travel agents that they were next up.
Well the other travel agencies did not respond well and have banded together to take down AA. Expedia immediately de-preferenced all American flights from its searches and in a bolder move, pulled all AA flights from Expedia and Hotwire on January 1, 2011.
AA must be suffering now that several online agencies are no longer selling their flights. Remember, many people go to these sites for comparison shopping and if AA doesn't show up, they will simply book with other carriers.
George Hobica, who runs airfarewatchdog.com, wrote a succinct post on why we need online sites like Orbitz and Expedia to display all fares. It negatively affects the consumer when airlines make us go to each of their sites for pricing, so I hope AA comes to its senses and decides to play nicely in the sandbox with its ticket distributors.
The plot thickened yesterday when travel giant Sabre, which provides travel agents access to booking airline tickets, announced it was pulling AA from it's system. In a message to travel agents, Sabre concluded
"AA's stated plans regarding its "Direct Connect strategy," backed up by its recent actions, are an attempt to impose a costly, unproven and unnecessary system that would make it harder and more costly for you to operate your business and for your customers to comparison shop based on full and transparent fare information. Based on AA's actions, in addition to the steps noted above, we have also given notice that we are eliminating the substantial price discounts AA has enjoyed consistent with its prior long-term commitments to provide full content and support efficient comparison shopping for our agency and corporate customers."
It looks like AA has shaken the bees nest and sufficiently angered the travel industry. I'm glad that they are all banding together to fight them on their move, which if every airline took, would make comparison shopping for flights very difficult.
I'm curious to see what happens, because I'm sure AA spent a ton to develop the Direct Connect technology, so I doubt they will walk away from it without a fight.