The battle between airlines and travel sites is starting to heat up, but for different reasons.
The relationship between airline and secondary travel sites is interesting. Most have a relationship like travel agents used to, where the site will get a referral fee for making the booking. However any additional money made from hotels or cars is kept by the outside site.
Back in October 2008, American Airlines went to battle with Kayak.com. Kayak.com is pretty darn cool and I don’t mind giving them a plug. You are able to say where and when you want to go somewhere and they will compare fares. They will also let you know if the cheapest fare is on the airline’s website (which I find it almost always is) or on another site like Orbitz or Expedia. Kayak doesn’t actually sell you anything, but just refers you to another site to make the actual purchase. Back in 2008, American was not happy since they wanted Kayak to only link to their site and not to third party sites like Orbitz, Expedia, etc for comparison. It appears that American won, since their site is the only one listed under American fares on Kayak.
More recently American is taking Orbitz head-on. American has required Orbitz to remove all their flights from the site. American is stating this is because Orbitz is not just a third party, but sort of a fourth party. American gives its flight information to another outside company and that company gives it to Orbitz, Expedia, etc. American has been asking Orbitz to work directly with American’s reservation system, cutting out one of the middlemen, but the two companies have not been able to make a deal. Even though that might be more of a public reason why American is cutting out Orbitz, I wouldn’t doubt they might be trying to make a more aggressive move against the third party vendors.
What makes this more interesting is Expedia is jumping in on the fun. Expedia, on their own, has decided to “bury” American’s listings on their website, making them very difficult for customers to find. Kind of like a preemptive “screw you,” for messing with Orbitz and possibly messing with them. American is not taking this without a fight. They have been vocal via their Twitter account telling customers they still have options, “Expedia made AA fares harder to find on Expedia.com. Go to AA.com, Kayak or Priceline for AA fares,” American posted recently on their Twitter account.
Now, Delta is feeling left out and decided to have their listings removed from three travel sites: CheapOAir, OneTravel and BookIt. As of now they still have their full listings on other sites, but this could possibly change.
Airlines like Southwest and Allegiant have not allowed other site to list their prices for a long time. They get the benefit of all passengers booking on their website and getting 100% of the ancillary revenue. Will this continue as other airlines look for ways to increase revenue? Will sites like Expedia and Orbitz be able to change their business model in a way that airlines will still work with them?
Honestly, I am not sure how this will all work out and if, in the end passengers will be better or worse off. I just hope something is figured out. Having to go to each airline’s website to figure out times and costs and compare them to others is not something I really want to go back to.Image: Chrisl1024