JetBlue Just Pulled the Plug on These Online Travel Agencies
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JetBlue made it just a little harder to book its flights on websites other than JetBlue.com. In an continuing effort to drive passengers directly to its own website to book, JetBlue has just stopped a dozen online travel agencies (OTAs) from being able to sell its flights.
There are multiple reasons that the airline would want to do this. Most directly, JetBlue saves money by avoiding paying travel agency commissions to these websites. Perhaps more importantly, JetBlue can upsell highly profitable ancillary services such as travel insurance and hotel and car rental packages on its website. These revenue streams are dry when passengers book elsewhere.
In what’s being described as “phase one” of its “new online distribution strategy,” JetBlue pulled the plug on the following websites this week:
SmartFares, MyFlightSearch, VacationExpress, FlyFar.ca, FlightNetwork, Vayama, WhatsCheaper, Vegas.com, JetsetVacations, CheapFlightsFares, QuickTravels, kiwi.com
However, that still leaves a long list of online travel agencies you can choose from. For a couple sample itineraries, we found that (at least) the following OTAs sell tickets at the same price as JetBlue’s website: Priceline, Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, JustFly, Cheapfaremart, ExploreTrip and Flightsbird.
In addition, the following OTAs are selling JetBlue tickets at higher prices: Cheapoair, Flightsbank, Kiss & Fly, CheapestFareNow, Hop2, Travomint, Travelmano, FlightsMojo, PaylessFlights, Flying.com, GoTravel123, Cheap Best Fares, OneTravel and JustAirTicket.
It’ll be interesting to see which of these might be cut in future rounds of this new strategy. Or, perhaps JetBlue will go with Lufthansa’s strategy of adding surcharges to third-party bookings.
Based on expert analysis provided to Bloomberg, just to break even JetBlue might need to charge $9 more for these bookings. Henry Harteveldt of Atmosphere Research Group explains a typical OTA reservation “would cost a carrier $10.40, excluding agency incentives or commissions” vs. “less than $2 to process through its own website or mobile app.” When some JetBlue fares (before taxes and fees) are as cheap as $14.88, an $8+ difference is a massive percentage to lose.
Likely safest from any additional fees would be those aggregators that direct passengers to JetBlue’s website to book flights — such as Google Flights, Hipmunk and Kayak.
While JetBlue’s intentions to drive customers to its own website are clear, there are reasons passengers would also want to use JetBlue’s own website. For those with an The Platinum Card from American Express, you’re only going to get 5x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent if you book through the airline’s own website.