As we noted earlier this week, the exclusion of American Airlines’ flights and fares from the leading travel sites Expedia and Orbitz has limited your choices in booking the carrier. Now matters continue to get worse.
In fact, the airline’s feud with the travel technology industry has escalated in recent days. Sabre, a travel tech company that provides travel agencies with airline flight and fare data, announced has downgraded the airline’s displays and eliminated discounts, affecting how millions of passengers book the carrier.
The dispute arose over American’s development of Direct Connect, a booking program that allows the airline to customize pricing options that has angered much of the travel technology world. It is part of a larger strategy to direct more customers to American’s own website, thereby reducing commission costs and optimizing the sale of other products on AA.com.
Now both sides in this battle are claiming the other’s actions are harmful to customers. American issued a statement that termed Sabre’s actions “anti-consumer, anti-competitive, and harmful to its subscribing [travel] agents.” Earlier Expedia stated that American’s actions were “anti-consumer and anti-choice.”
For consumers, it’s clear the inconvenience of being denied access to American Airlines flights and fares will continue. However, the larger threat to customer choice has not been resolved.
Because of this, the travel industry is aligning over this issue as well. The American Society of Travel Agents stated: “While much rhetoric has been expended in promoting Direct Connect in the media, ASTA has seen no convincing evidence that it will contribute to more optimal buying by consumers. We hope that other airlines will think very carefully before going down a similar path.”
And the National Business Travel Association weighed in as well: “Business travel buyers will ultimately foot the bill for marketplace fragmentation caused by airline initiatives that push the travel distribution marketplace in the wrong direction—away from transparency and competitiveness and toward confusion and higher costs.”
Meanwhile, Priceline announced that not only are American’s fares still available on the site, but in fact Priceline is offering a sale on the airline.
—William J. McGee