The friction between American Airlines and online travel sites appears to be producing more heat. After American pulled its fares from travel site Orbitz, rival Expedia has retaliated by dropping American from its site.
It started last month when American Airlines announced a judge had allowed it to withdraw from its agreement with Orbitz. American wanted out because Orbitz insisted on obtaining American's flight data from a third party source, which had to be paid.
American said Orbitz should obtain the data directly from the airline, thereby saving money for American. When Orbitz refused to budge, American withdrew participation with Orbitz.
Expedia, which competes directly with Orbitz, nonetheless began "hiding" American's flight information on its site in sympathy with Orbitz. Now, Expedia has taken the additional step of dropping American from its sight altogether, according to the airline.
American put out a statement over the weekend saying the loss of the two travel sites had not hurt its business. The carrier said it has seen a year-over-year increase in its overall ticket sales since Dec. 21, when it removed its schedules and airfares for American Airlines and American Eagle flights from Orbitz.com and websites powered by Orbitz.com, and since Dec. 23, when Expedia.com began discriminating against American's flights and schedules by listing them lower in the search display than those of other airlines.
While the year-over-year increase in ticket sales is roughly comparable to that seen earlier in December, American said it has noted a shift in ticket sales to other channels, notably online travel agencies, such as Priceline.com, and referrals from metasearch engines, such as Kayak.com, as well as increased volume on its own website, AA.com.
"Our results to date show that consumer choice is alive and well and that our customers continue to have thousands of options to purchase American's competitive fares and convenient schedules," said Derek DeCross, American's Vice President and General Sales Manager. "It is also clear to us that other online travel sites and traditional travel agencies are capitalizing on this market opportunity to gain business. Beyond that, we want to thank our customers and travel partners for their continued loyalty and support. We appreciate your business."
DeCross reiterated that American is committed to working with all distribution channels, including traditional travel agencies, online travel agencies and global distribution systems, to benefit from adopting its direct connection model, powered by Farelogix, which delivers to travel agencies and their customers more customized travel choices and options. There is no cost to tap into American's direct connection.
While American competitor Southwest Airlines has a policy of only selling tickets through its own branded website, DeCross said American does not plan to follow suit. While its clear the airline prefers customers to book through its website, DeCross said the company does not expect to ever sell only through AA.com.
"Our goal is to have broad distribution channels and choices for our customers, with our products and services delivered efficiently and without unnecessary costs flowing through the process," he said.