United and Expedia end their feud and form a new agreement

Sep 16, 2019

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United Airlines and Expedia aren’t getting a divorce.

In fact, the Chicago-based airline and the Bellevue, Washington-based online travel agency have not only buried the hatchet — they’ve agreed to work on even more projects together over the coming years.

“Expedia Group announces today that it has signed a new, multi-year agreement with United Airlines, which operates flights to nearly 360 destinations in 57 countries,” Expedia said in a press release. “This new agreement ushers in an expanded relationship, meeting the strategic objectives of both companies and benefiting travelers around the world.”

In April, Expedia sued United for breach of contract, accusing the airline of trying to renege on its eight-year deal to let the OTA advertise and sell its lowest fares. The airline appeared poised to pull its flight schedule from Expedia after Sept. 30, when the pair’s contract expired, but it wasn’t clear what would happen to fares booked before Sept. 30 for travel after that date. A federal court had already denied Expedia’s request for an injunction against United, but noted that Expedia would likely win a breach-of-contract case against United.

United, meanwhile, seemed ready to go ahead with the split and even ebullient about the prospect of selling its cheapest fares to customers on its own.

“The most simple way to say this is ‘time to change,’” Andrew Nocella, United’s executive vice president and chief commercial officer, said in an earnings call shortly after the suit was filed. “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.”

In its lawsuit, Expedia characterized United’s stance as “a brazen attempt to force Expedia to renegotiate the Agreement’s economic terms, with which United is unsatisfied.”

But the announcement Monday actually seemingly cements the two companies even more tightly than before.

“The agreement continues Expedia Group’s leisure distribution with United, expands United’s relationship with Expedia Partner Solutions, builds on United’s relationship with Egencia, Expedia Group’s corporate travel business, and the companies will work to expand cooperation into other areas in the near future,” the press release continued.

A spokeswoman for Expedia referred further questions about the new agreement and what it means for customers and the legal proceedings to the original press release. United spokespeople didn’t return calls for comment by publication.

Among major U.S. carries, neither Southwest nor JetBlue use online travel agencies to sell fares. JetBlue pulled its flights from several OTAs in 2017, but still works with some, including Expedia and Orbitz.

Language was added to the story to make it clearer that JetBlue didn’t pull its flights from all OTAs in 2017.

Featured image by Guillaume Payen/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

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