Half a dozen people have sent me articles about American’s flights no longer showing up on Orbitz. US Airways flights will be pulled from Orbitz on September 1.
American sent out a press release on this yesterday, but I didn’t write about it. It’s a temporary phenomenon, basically a contract dispute. It’s not the first time we’ve seen this, about four years ago American pulled its inventory from Orbitz. It’s about pricing and about selling ancillary products through online travel agencies.
Orbitz was started by a consortium of major airlines, but is no longer owned by them. The online travel agencies have considerable volume, Expedia is number one in the space. American can’t really afford to have their flights not appear as options in the major distribution sites where consumers buy tickets. But the agencies don’t want to have the world’s largest airline available through their portal when their competitors offer more comprehensive options. It’s a game of chicken over deal terms, one that will almost certainly be resolved.
And one in which I have absolutely no opinion on who is right or wrong here. I don’t like it but it’s not that big a deal.
I’ve long liked online travel agencies because of the possibility to earn miles or cash back through shopping portals, plus points in the online agency’s own program (before devalued theirs after devaluing theirs the very same year they launched it).
I still find them useful for:
- Combining multiple airlines on a single ticket
- Obtaining alternative pricing, since inventory may appear slightly differently in each computer reservation system
- Fuel dumps
Booking through an online agency makes it easier to buy a ticket and then cancel within 24 hours, versus American’s policy of offering 24 hour holds prior to purchase.
On the other hand, it’s easier to add my Business ExtrAA number as part of the booking. I used to be able to add coupon/discount codes and save 5% – 7%, but American has pretty much gotten rid of that option.
Ultimately, I like competition. I like to be able to buy the same thing in lots of places. But there are still plenty of places to buy American tickets. I guess all that matters is knowing that if you go to Orbitz right now you aren’t seeing all of the options you used to.
That and, of course, if you have an Orbitz ticket for travel on American you’re going to need to work with American on any changes rather than going back to Orbitz — because Orbitz can’t book American’s inventory right now. Again, not a big deal — but good to know not to waste your time on hold waiting for an Orbitz agent only to find out you then need to wait on hold for an American one.