American Airlines Yanks Fares From Orbitz

In a contract tussle, American Airlines has removed all of its fares from Orbitz.

Airlines have to pay commissions to 3rd party sites like Orbitz and Travelocity whenever one of these sites sells one of their tickets. American wants more control over the distribution of their seats and to funnel more travelers to their direct website. There they can also profit from lucrative hotel and car rental upgrades to tickets.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the airlines said they want to be “free to customize its product offerings to improve the customer experience as well as distribute its products in a way that does not result in unnecessary costs.”

American Airlines tickets previously purchased on Orbitz will still be good.

The two will eventually make up but until they do, travelers can use a meta-engine like Kayak or Bing which searches across different sites at once, including Orbitz and American Airlines.

American Airlines Stops Selling Tickets on Orbitz [ABC]
Why did American remove its fares from Orbitz? [AirFareWatchDog]
American Airlines pulls fares from Orbitz [WCPO]

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  1. Blueskylaw says:

    “In a contract tussle, American Airlines has removed all of its fares from Orbitz.”

    It’s a good thing to know that mandatory arbitration is in their contract, this will be settled fairly and without prejudice.

  2. Supes says:

    Orbitz is mostly useless anyways. Sites like Kayak, mentioned in the article, tend to do a much better job finding the absolute lowest price.

    Orbitz is on its way out, and the only way they can service is switching to an advertising-income based model. Getting money from the airlines themselves won’t work, as they’ll find ways around it.

    • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

      It’s getting to where Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia are all useless. They use cookies to drive up the price of a ticket to the same customer on the same visit, and I always find better fares going directly to the airline sites. And there have been more and more horror stories where customers got shafted because one of these sites can’t or won’t help in a dispute with a hotel or an airline.

    • johnmc says:

      It just got more useful to me. Now I don’t have to filter out flights operated by American on their nasty-ass MD80s.

      • coffeeculture says:

        mm I love the 2×3 arrangement of the MD 80′s….and they’re pretty roomy too, plus quiet if you’re in the front with the engine in the back.

        Otherwise yes I do prefer Boeing planes more than anything.

  3. Ephraim says:

    And in the meanwhile, customers will instead be flying on other airlines…..

    We were on an AA flight from MIA to SJU. Not only did AA give away our seats that we had reserved months earlier (and we had to argue to get them back) but the plane was so old that they actually had central CRTs in the aisle for the movie. We had to ask to make sure that the pilots weren’t Wilbur and Orville. No Canadian or European airline with any self-respect would fly a plane that old.

    • GearheadGeek says:

      Heh… You probably don’t really want to know how old the planes you’re flying on are, because the majority of commercial aircraft flying in the US. Except for the new carriers like JetBlue and Virgin America, the US fleet is fairly old because there really haven’t been significant changes to the airframes in a long time, so they upgrade when an airplane actually wears out, and they refit the cabin while still flying an old plane.

      Delta, United, Southwest and American all have an average fleet age around 15 years, per airfleets.net. British Airwarys is about 12 years and Air France is 9, both probably skewed by their move to euro-made Airbus hardware.

    • ChunkyBarf says:

      Lufthansa has central CRTs on at least one of their planes (the flight I took from Germany to USA). Incidentally, when I took United (their Star Alliance partner) from USA to Germany for the first half of my trip I had my very own flat screen in front of me. I would not count the European fleet as being the epitome of high-tech (just look up RyanAir).

      • johnmc says:

        Ryanair don’t have an In-Flight Entertainment system in their aircraft, so there’s nothing to compare here. Their fleet is pretty young too, from what I recall.

        • gman863 says:

          I thought people scrambling to find coin for the pay toilets before they piss on themselves was their in-flight entertainment.

    • sirwired says:

      The age of the interior only sets a minimum age for the plane. A CRT-equipped plane would could have an interior probably 6-8 years old, and for all you know, the airframe could be that age too (that’s really young for a plane.) OTOH, you could very easily be in a jet 20 or 30 years old and have seatback entertainment, nice lighting, comfy seats, etc. The only way to tell is to note the tail number and dig up the information online or look for the manufacturer’s placard near one of the cabin doors.

      As long as the airframe is regularly checked for fatigue, it has essentially indefinite life. I guarantee that Air Canada and European airlines have pretty old airframes scattered here and there too.

    • BigSlowTarget says:

      Guess respect is hard to come by in European Airlines:

      Average age of operating aircraft:
      American 14.7 years
      Lufthansa 13.2 years
      Air Finland 16.3 years
      Air France – average is only 9! but they’re running 747s that average 14yrs
      Air Italy 16yrs
      Air Sweden 22.7 yrs

      Air Canada? 10yrs – but their feeders, Air Canada Jazz and Air Canada Jetz average 15.6 and 17.2 respectively.

      Please don’t take any of this to mean American’s customer service doesn’t suck though.
      Oh but if you want to fly young planes, try AirTran – only 7.3 yrs. Not what I’d think of as the finest in service though.

  4. Etoiles says:

    Our local noon news just ran this basically as, “OH NOES NOW NO-ONE CAN COMPARE PRICES!”

    And I just kind of thought, “I can’t be the only person who browses using Kayak and then books straight with airlines.”

    Much ado about nothing…

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      You forget Cardinal Rule #1: People is stupid.

    • coffeeculture says:

      Seriously, +1 for this post…this is not news. Most savvy travelers I know search via one of the aggregators (I like Bing Travel nee Farecast) then book direct.

      You can hold itineraries for 24hrs on AA then change your seat as many times as you want (nicer ones pop up closer to departure), my friend who booked via Priceline couldn’t change her seat until day-of. We paid the same price.

  5. invisibelle says:

    Southwest concluded long ago that distributing on OTAs does not pay off for a lot of reasons. Looks like AA is starting to reach the same conclusion.

    • ZenMasterKel says:

      It’s funny how Southwest has actual advertisements that state that the only way to book a flight online with Southwest is through Southwest.com, yet, when American Airlines starts to pull away from these third party websites, it’s “ZOMG!, the CUSTOMER IS GETTING SCREWED!!!!”

      Really? Southwest brags about it and advertises this fact, yet American Airlines is getting bad press. I do think that the airline industry is screwing over the customer and until we stand up and say no more, then they will continue to screw us over. But I don’t think the Orbitz/American issue will have an inpact on the consumer.

      • invisibelle says:

        It’s because a lot of people don’t understand how airfares work. The exact same fares are available everywhere. All OTAs do is aggregate all the airlines together so you can see what’s available on what airline without having to search them all individually.

        If anyone is getting screwed, it’s because airlines aren’t gov’t regulated so the prices are, to some degree, fixed. Has nothing to do with where/how the fares are distributed/marketed online.

  6. Scuba Steve says:

    I love how whenever a company says they are “improving the customer experience” it never involves the customers wallet or bank account.

  7. georgi55 says:

    Orbitz is not useless if you are trying to find Hotel and Air package deal. From my recent search a $140 per night hotel can be had for $99 per night when you combine them into one purchase, and that’s after comparing all sites and all available discounts like AAA

  8. wetrat says:

    The only time I have ever used Orbitz is to book an interline flight (connecting from another international airline to AA at JFK) that would be impossible to do on AA’s web site. It was slightly useful for that, but it did charge me a booking fee. The big problem with Orbitz and other online travel agents is that if you have to make a change or if something unexpected happens you usually have to go back through the agent. I would much prefer to deal directly with AA– their agents usually have a better idea of your options when you have to change a flight.

    As others said above, if you are interested in comparing fares, use Kayak.

  9. sirwired says:

    No, American does not generally pay commissions; airlines haven’t paid much in the way of commissions in years. The dispute is because American wants opportunities to sell customers on additional fees, and Orbitz doesn’t want to do that.

    • MFfan310 says:

      That is true, but it’s mostly because American Airlines wants Orbitz to directly connect to AA’s reservations system. Orbitz prefers using an intermediary computer reservations system (CRS) called Galileo, which is owned by Travelport. Travelport owns 48% of Orbitz Worldwide, so they basically are obligated to use Galileo.

      Also of note: Expedia recently made it harder to look for AA fares.

  10. gman863 says:

    If American wants to avoid paying a few bucks to third-party sites like Orbitz and Expedia there’s a simple solution: Lower their fares and fees (all of them – super saver or full rate) to those charged by the other airlines who don’t pay commission: Southwest and Jet Blue.

  11. fuceefacee says:

    IMHO the best place to compare fares is on ITA. It takes a few minutes to how to use the software correctly but well worth the effort.
    http://matrix.itasoftware.com/

  12. code65536 says:

    I just got an e-mail from AA saying that they won’t be listed on Expedia (oddly, no mention of Orbitz!). According to AA, “we want to inform you that Expedia® has chosen to make American Airlines tickets more difficult to find on Expedia® sites.” Placing the blame on Expedia, I see…

    • code65536 says:

      Hmm, apparently, Expedia was acting in solidarity with Orbitz by demoting AA listings, and then AA fired back by pulled out of Expedia. Ooh, this is fun.