Expedia hides American airfares after Orbitz dispute
NEW YORK: Expedia Inc.'s travel website is hiding airfares for American Airlines after the third-largest U.S. carrier pulled data from Orbitz Worldwide Inc. as part of a legal dispute.
Prices for American flights no longer appear at the top of the site when passengers search for tickets, while those for competitors such as United Continental Holdings Inc. are still shown side by side so travelers can compare.
"This has been done in light of both American Airlines' recent decision to prevent Orbitz from selling its inventory, and a possible disruption in Expedia's ability to sell American Airlines tickets when our contract with American Airlines expires," Expedia said today in an emailed statement. The company declined to say when its accord with American ends.
The move by Bellevue, Washington-based Expedia widened the conflict between online travel agencies and airlines such as American that seek to drive more consumers to their own websites. AMR Corp.'s American won a court ruling against Orbitz on Dec. 21 and removed its flight data within hours.
"We're disappointed that Expedia is making American Airlines flights and fares more difficult to find," Ryan Mikolasik, a spokesman for American, said in an e-mailed statement. "This discriminato- ry action is unwarranted, especially considering that American has taken no action against and continues to operate in good faith with Expedia."
A search today of the Expedia.com site for a ticket from American's hometown hub at Dallas-Fort Worth airport to its Chicago hub in the first week of January showed a nonstop United flight for $282 and one by US Airways Group Inc. for $511. A message read "see below" for American information.
Consumers must click through outbound and return flight times to see the price of the American ticket.
American has developed a system called Direct Connect that provides fare pricing and options directly to larger online travel agencies. The Fort Worth, Texas-based airline also is trying to handle more bookings through its AA.com website.
American dropped Orbitz after an Illinois state court in Chicago lifted a temporary restraining order granted last month that prevented the airline from doing so. Orbitz is partly owned by Travelport LP, which distributes airline fare data. Delta Air Lines Inc., the second-largest U.S. carrier, said Dec. 21 it was terminating three online travel sites, CheapOAir.com, OneTravel.com and BookIt.com as authorized travel agents. -Bloomberg