American Airlines has won a legal battle to remove its flights from price comparison website Orbitz – sparking debate over the future of third-party travel sites.
American has frequently stated travellers should deal directly with the airline, rather than employing third party sites, in order to reduce costs and gain a more tailored experience.
However, Orbitz – which is 48 per cent owned by Travelport – has argued without intermediaries to collate pricing and reservations data, consumers would be unable to compare prices effectively.
The American carrier had said it would remove its listings from the site in November, causing a sharp fall in the share price of Orbitz.
Earlier today Judge Martin Agran overturned an injunction preventing the airline from dosing so at the Circuit Court of Cook County.
“American Airlines regrets any inconvenience this may cause our customers,” said American Airlines vice president for sales Derek DeCross.
“While we could not reach an agreement with Orbitz, we are committed to letting customers know of the multitude of options they have to purchase travel on American Airlines.
“In today’s competitive marketplace, it is important for American to be free to customise its product offerings to improve the customer experience as well as distribute its products in a way that does not result in unnecessary costs.”
Tickets for travel already purchased through Orbitz remain valid, a statement added.
American also continues to provide its fare content to travel agency partners, both through global distribution systems and through American’s own direct connection technology that is powered by Farelogix.
Orbitz responded by saying the decision was “unfortunate”, though it noted “our consumer value proposition remains strong”.
“We will continue to seek an arrangement with American Airlines to distribute American’s tickets on Orbitz and Orbitz for Business,” spokesman Brian Hoyt said.
The decision has sparked a debate among travel insiders on the role of third party ticketing sites.
“The stakes in this conflict are clear: either an improved airline industry and distribution marketplace centred around the consumer, or one that subordinates consumer interests to the self-serving motivations of individual airlines endeavouring to impose their wills on consumers and the other participants in the travel industry,” stated Business Travel Coalition chairman Kevin Mitchell.
“Single-supplier direct connect proposals, like the one advanced by American Airlines, can cause massive fragmentation of airfares and ancillary fees depriving consumers of the ability to compare the total cost of air travel options across all airlines.”