American Airlines yanks fares from Orbitz

By Julie Johnsson
Posted Dec. 21, 2010 at 4:25 p.m.

Orbitz Worldwide Inc. stopped selling American Airlines’ tickets on Tuesday afternoon after a Cook County Circuit Court judge allowed the nation’s #3 airline to yank all content from the online travel giant.

American said it pulled its inventory from Orbitz immediately after the ruling. Customers who need to change tickets booked through should call 1-800-433-7300, the airline advised.

Texas-based American had sought to sever ties to the Chicago-based online travel agency on Dec. 1 as a result of a contract dispute with Orbitz and Travelport, the online travel giant’s largest shareholder.

Circuit Court Judge Martin Agran Tuesday refused to grant a preliminary injunction to Travelport, which earlier convinced the court to grant a temporary restraining order to prevent it from suffering economic harm.

American wants to change the way that its tickets are distributed, a move that could shake up the global travel industry and reduce its distribution costs. American wants travel agencies and giant ticketing clearinghouses such as Travelport’s Worldspan and Galileo, to use an electronic pipeline created by American, called Direct Connect, to handle all transactions with American.

The move would enable American to slash its distribution costs, since it currently pays fees of $3 to $5 to both Travelport’s subsidiaries and Orbitz for every segment of every trip booked through Worldspan or Galileo. American says Direct Connect employs superior technology that would enable it to tailor its offerings to individual customers, like offering free wi-fi to a regular business traveler stuck in an economy seat, for example.

But critics charge American’s aim is to steer more passengers to American’s website,, and to ultimately make it more difficult for consumers and travel agencies to compare its prices with those of other airlines.

Today’s court victory harms Orbitz, which says American accounted for about 5 percent, or $28.8 million, of the  $575.1 million net revenue it generated during the first nine months of 2010.

“We will continue to seek an arrangement with American Airlines to distribute American’s tickets on and Orbitz for Business,” Orbitz said in response to the court ruling.

But the maneuver could backfire for American if consumers turn to competing airlines to fill the void, said Henry Harteveldt, travel analyst with Forrester Research Inc.

“If AA pulls out of Orbitz, Orbitz becomes a less comprehensive shopping and booking resource for travelers,” Harteveldt said. “Of course, since customers who buy on the online travel agency sites are generally price-focused, they may neither notice nor care that American is not appearing on their flight searches. In that case, American stands to lose.”

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  1. Pelly Dec. 21, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    It certainly has not hurt SouthWest Airlines to avoid sales on the travel sites like Orbitz.

  2. wings9798 Dec. 21, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    I just looked at and could but AA tickets. 3:54 CST

  3. momic Dec. 21, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    If I can’t fly Southwest I walk.

  4. Luke Dec. 21, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    But the savings will be passed on to the customer!

  5. Mark Wells Dec. 21, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    I prefer using sites like Expedia and Orbitz because I can book everything at once and compare prices. I can book airfare, hotel, rental car, daytrips, seat assignments, etc. all in one place. They routinely have package deals that save hundreds, even thousands of dollars. In the grand scheme of things, paying an extra $3 per person seems rather small compared with the total cost of a family vacation which can easily be $5,000 or more. Do I sound like a salesperson for the travel sites? It’s because I don’t want to go back to visiting dozens of separate sites and wasting 40 hours on the phone planning trips. American Airlines can suck eggs. I also like Southwest and I really wish they would join the party.

  6. Jennifer Dec. 21, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    I only use Orbitz for basic price comparisons – booking directly is always cheaper. To say they don’t charge fees, it’s interesting that the fare is always $25 per segment cheaper when you book direct. And I never book Southwest because they are never the cheapest.

  7. Mark sucks Dec. 21, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    Mark. It’s moreso because you’re an idiot. Find an airline and stick with it. Then shut up.


  8. Zman Dec. 21, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    So, “Mark sucks”, which department do you work for over there at American?

  9. kyle Dec. 21, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    “But the savings will be passed on to the customer!”

    I don’t see that happening at all. The article didn’t mention anything about less baggage fees, lower costs for the consumer or anything like that. Only that it would be cheaper for AA to do business. Not to mention that it was a majority shareholder decision to pull out of Orbitz and try to focus on Direct Connect (i.e. the shareholders will want that savings to go directly to their pockets, who can blame them).

  10. Rick Thurston Dec. 21, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    No savings will be passed on to customers, this is all to prop up profit at American. Southwest, JetBlue, Sprit and Allegiant all do business this way and in time I think this is how most airlines will operate. They are driving customers to use their own sites. With the airline mega-mergers of the last few years there really aren’t that many airlines left, so what is the point of a site that just compares United, USAirways and Delta?

    And to Mark, you’ve been lucky. The packages sold by Orbitz and Expedia are fraught with problems-a missing reservation here, a lost reservation there. Nobody at Orbitz is there to help you at 3am EST when they lost (or never made) that reservation for the hotel in Venice, and you’re at the hotel front desk trying to check in. I prefer to make my own arrangements with the companies themselves, and that seems to carry more weight towards resolution when there are problems.

  11. Damon Dec. 21, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    Just use Kayak. It combs through all the Airlines’ and travel companies sites and lets YOU pick where to get your fare from. American is still on there.

    And unrelated, every time I see “I only fly Southwest,” all I hear is “I don’t have a passport.”

  12. joeschmo Dec. 21, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    I only fly Southwest, yes, because I have no reason to leave the country. So why do I need a Passport and honestly, who cares?

    I fly Southwest because if I change my flight it costs $0. When I bring luggage it costs $0. So, Jennifer, after you add up all those extra costs you’ll find that Southwest isn’t ALWAYS the cheapest, but I disagree with your statement that they are NEVER the cheapest.

  13. MisterMike Dec. 21, 2010 at 10:45 pm

    Really, who cares? American Airlines’ standards have slipped so low that everyone I know avoids them at all costs.

  14. Pbody Dec. 22, 2010 at 8:36 a.m.

    Something to consider. The content being distributed by orbitz belongs to who?
    The content providers – American, Delta, British Airways, Avis, Hilton etc. If any provider makes a business decision to pull their content and distribute it in a way that is more cost effective for them – they have every right. It’s their stuff.

    Also many of these airline websites offer complete booking options that allow you to book air, car and hotel. Some even offer travel packages and vacation packages. Sites like orbitz and priceline and travelocity etc. are good for the do-it-yourself traveler; BUT, the content does not belong to them.

  15. Chuck Dec. 22, 2010 at 9:46 a.m.

    I prefer business meetings via Skype. Otherwise, I take the train or rent a car to meet clients F2F. Honestly, why would anyone in their right mind go to an airport 2 hours early (I live near O’Hare), stand in line, get radiated by TSA scanners, get exposed to radiation again at 30,000 ft, pay ridiculous baggage fees, sit in cramped seats, and breathe in toxic jet fumes through a crappy ventilation system? Cattle ride better on their way to the stockyards. Screw air travel.

  16. ganesh Dec. 23, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    That’s exactly what I’m sayin’ – Southwest is the bomb. Export that model.

  17. ganesh Dec. 23, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    I also think online companies are over-rated. But then the airline companies are incapable of handling their services. They are so freakin’ pre-occupied with te=heir revenue that they forget their customers. Except for Southwest – Look at their inventory – they mind their own business. Look at their planes – their seats are actually “residable”. So, beware other airlines – it is not about your “offerings” – we don’t give a crap about that – it is the “quality” of your offerings – We can easily “walk away” from your “flying crap”.

  18. Laurinda Adside Dec. 24, 2010 at 4:14 a.m.

    Yet another owner for the historic Universal Studios… only even more greedier and powerful!