Online travel giant Expedia has dropped American Airlines’ flights from its consumer sites, escalating the battle over access to fares between retailers and airlines.
Expedia acted on New Year’s Day after American Airlines pulled its fares from rival online retailer Orbitz on December 21.
This followed the lifting of a restraining order on the carrier by a US court. Expedia accused American of “anti-consumer” behaviour as the carrier seeks to drive bookings through its own Direct Connect facility.
The retailer’s move heightened the stakes in the associated row between American and global distribution system (GDS)-owner Travelport, which hit travel agents and consumers before Christmas.
Since December 20 retailers have had to pay added charges for booking American flights through Travelport GDSs Worldspan and Galileo.
A long-running struggle over access to fares and who pays for GDS content has crystallised over American’s insistence that Orbitz, Expedia and other retailers sell flights through Direct Connect.
In a statement, Expedia said: “We have been unable to reach an agreement with American Airlines due to AA’s new commercial strategy that we believe is anti-consumer and anti-choice. As a result the sale of AA flights on our website has been suspended.”
American’s flights also no longer appear on Expedia-owned TripAdvisor or Hotwire, but remain on Expedia corporate travel site Egencia.
Expedia acted earlier, on December 21, to list American flights below those of other carriers and provide a link to fares rather than display prices.
However, American Airlines director of distribution strategy Cory Gardner dismissed the impact on sales, telling USA Today: “The type of fares sold by Orbitz and Expedia are fares we don’t have a lot of difficulty selling.”
In a separate move, American rival Delta Air Lines stripped its fares from three US-based travel sites – CheapOAir.com, OneTravel.com and Bookit.com. Delta said it also aimed to build a direct connection with customers.
American imposed fees on bookings through Galileo and Worldspan after Travelport withdrew discounts on its charges to the airline for appearing on the GDSs. The fees add £4.52 to a fare booked on Galileo and £6.24 on Worldspan.