Expedia Sues United Airlines, Revealing a Months-Long Bitter Feud

Apr 18, 2019

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

*Update 4/18/19: United executives confirmed on the airline’s earnings call that they were moving forward with pulling fares from Expedia, and they were confident that they could sustain United’s profits after the move on Sept. 30.

“The most simple way to say this is time to change,” Andrew Nocella, United’s executive vice president and chief commercial officer, said on the Wednesday call. “But quite honestly we think we can sell our lowest fares just as well, and that’s where we are. So, we look forward to having a direct relationship with our customers going forward and that’s really where we are with Expedia.”

A cursory search of Expedia still showed it was offering United fares after the airline’s cutoff date for their agreement, Sept. 30. It would be wise to avoid purchasing a United fare through Expedia after that date, because, as United stated during its legal dispute, customers who book through Expedia “will no longer be able to assist customers traveling after the contract expiration date who need to make a change to their United reservation.”

Expedia Group is suing United Airlines, a new lawsuit filed Monday in the Southern District of New York shows.

The lawsuit, a civil complaint, stems from a contract dispute between the travel fare aggregator and the airline in their ticketing agreement. In the filing, Expedia accuses United of “a flagrant breach of its obligations under the Agreement,” and “a brazen attempt to force Expedia to renegotiate the Agreement’s economic terms, with which United is unsatisfied,” according to a redacted copy of the lawsuit obtained by TPG.

The exact nature of those terms is redacted in the complaint, but United has confirmed that it has revoked fare listings on the site for Oct. 1 and beyond.

“United’s contract with Expedia expires this fall,” United said in a statement. “For months, Expedia has refused to engage in constructive discussions with United about a new contract and United currently expects that our fares will not be listed on Expedia sites in the U.S. and Canada effective October 1, 2019.”

In the lawsuit, Expedia goes on to ask the court for its “intervention to enjoin United from unlawfully discontinuing Expedia’s access from…” and the rest of the sentence is redacted in the filing, but logically filling in the gaps, it would be the fare data for its flights beyond Sept. 30. The fare aggregator argues in the complaint that “by unlawfully cutting off Expedia’s access” to this information, United will “undermine” Expedia’s ability to give customer service to the many customers who have already booked Post-September 2019 flights and also to those customers who will seek to change a pre-September 2019 flight reservation to a post-September 2019 flight.”

United, too, says it is “concerned” for those customers, and the airline sent Expedia a letter last week, “months in advance of the expiration date,” formally notifying Expedia that United intends to prohibit Expedia from booking tickets for travel Oct.1 and beyond.

“We are concerned about the negative impact on customers who book tickets now for travel after September 30 because Expedia will no longer be able to assist customers traveling after the contract expiration date who need to make a change to their United reservation,” United’s statement says. “This includes customers who need to change their travel plans and instances where a travel waiver is in place due to inclement weather. With each passing day, more United customers are buying tickets for travel after the expiration date.”

United also says that because the booking site doesn’t say how it will protect customers, “Expedia’s lawsuit is more about their ability to make money off their customers than it is to serve them.”

On the other hand, Expedia alleges that United is trying to renegotiate the economic terms of its contract by trying “to leverage its power in the air travel market as one of the four largest airlines in the United States to pressure Expedia.”

A search of Expedia on Tuesday showed that currently, United flights were still available for purchase on the site.

Similar legal issues between fare aggregators and airlines have resulted in the carrier’s flights being pulled from the sites, Skift reports. For example, American Airlines tickets weren’t available on Orbitz for a time in 2014 because “the relationship had become too costly,” USA Today reported at the time. That issue was eventually resolved.

If United flights do disappear from Expedia, that would also affect booking United through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, which is powered by Expedia. So the result of this lawsuit could also likely affect the ability to use Chase UR points at fixed value to book United flights.

United says it is “happy” to allow its customers to book through meta search sites, OTAs and travel agencies, “like Kayak or Google Flights,” just not Expedia.

Featured image by Jason Leung via Unsplash.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.