Mile-high pissing contest

The value of online travel sites such as Expedia comes in providing a one-stop shop for customers making reservations, especially for air travel. However, American Airlines has wearied of paying commissions for searches and bookings and the conflict between American and the these sites is escalating.

After American pulled its fares from Orbitz in December, Expedia cried foul and made American flights harder to find on its site before removing them altogether. The percentage of flights booked on third-party sites has been growing and Expedia seems to be banking that American needs those customers. However, in this mile-high pissing contest, American is likely to come out the winner for three reasons.

1. Going it alone can work. Southwest has been very successful eschewing third-party sites and offering tickets exclusively on its own site.

2. Customer have alternatives. People looking to compare flights and fares across airlines have options, such as Kayak, that offer comparison searches but then direct customers to the airlines for booking.

3. Other airlines follow American’s lead. If selling more flights through its own site proves to be a profitable move for American, other major airlines are likely to pull their flights from third-party vendors.

As major airlines reject commission-based, third-party sites, those sites lose their ability to attract customers. After all, if customers have to use them AND check elsewhere, they are no longer a one-stop shop.

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