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Battle Escalates Between Airlines and Online Agents 279

Posted by samzenpus
from the fighting-the-booker dept.
Ponca City writes "The Epoch Times reports that online travel booking giant Expedia has removed American Airlines from its travel website over disagreements with American's fee structure in the latest incident in an escalating battle between airlines and online travel agents. Although American gets roughly two-thirds of its revenues from third-party travel agents like Expedia, American has been looking for online agents to cut their fees as one way to lower fares — something that Expedia was not prepared to do. Expedia released a statement that American's action 'will result in higher costs and reduced transparency for consumers, making it difficult to compare ticket prices and options with offerings by other airlines,' while American urged customers to book directly on American's website for the lowest prices. Meanwhile Google is waiting in the wings with its recent proposal to purchase ITA Software, the developer of the Internet's leading technology to compare flights fares. 'Though 49 percent of travelers purchase travel online, it is still time consuming and slow to search for travel options online,' says a statement from Google, defending the ITA acquisition which is being opposed by Microsoft on anti-trust grounds. 'We plan to work with ITA to create a new, easier way for users to find better flight information online.'"
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Battle Escalates Between Airlines and Online Agents

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  • by shoehornjob (1632387) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @07:57PM (#34740220)

    Expedia released a statement that American's action 'will result in higher costs and reduced transparency for consumers, making it difficult to compare ticket prices and options with offerings by other airlines

    Southwest has been doing this for some time now. Sounds like a bunch of FUD from Expedia.

    • Re:Not really (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Low Ranked Craig (1327799) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @08:48PM (#34740426)
      I'd have to agree, and as it turns out Southwest is one of the few profitable airlines. When I have to fly I try Southwest first, then Jet Blue. If I can get their on either of those I drive or I don't go. Actually these days with all the shit going on at the airport if it's too far to drive I don't go.
      • Yeah I hear you. I'm going to Texas to see long lost family in a few days (first flight in a few years) and I looked for southwest first but they don't fly to a smaller airport that I want to go to so I had to fly with American. I would have gladly paid a bit more money for Southwest because they are much more professional. I checked Expedia, Travelocity etc and they all have the same flights and seats at the same price. I don't spend a lot of time comparing airline fares but from my perspective those sites
      • by schnell (163007) <me&schnell,net> on Sunday January 02, 2011 @10:23PM (#34740786) Homepage

        When I have to fly I try Southwest first, then Jet Blue. If I can get their on either of those I drive or I don't go.

        If you are a "casual" traveler - i.e. you typically travel for personal reasons or at your own discretion - you're dead on. Southwest, JetBlue and Virgin America are inexpensive, comfortable and usually will get you where you need to go on time. These airplanes don't offer much in the way of perks or status programs (other than getting you a free flight now and then), but as a casual flyer that's not a big deal.

        But if you fly fairly often (say, 50,000 miles a year or more) for work etc., then the traditional carriers start making a lot more sense - mainly because they do have multiple classes, perks programs etc. For example, United is a pretty terrible airline - more expensive, bad customer service in many cases, less nice cabins ... if I were a non-frequently flyer, I wouldn't touch them with a 10-foot pole. However, because I fly a lot on United and its code share partners, I get a lot of perks. Specifically, I know that if my schedule changes and I need to fly standby, I will be able to get on ahead of pretty much anybody else. Ditto for if my flight is cancelled and I need to be rebooked. It's also worth the extra money to me (especially since I'm not usually the one paying it) to know in advance I won't get a middle seat, will get to board first and not have them run out of overhead luggage space, occasionally get upgraded to first class, and so forth. American Airlines to me falls into that group of airlines I'd never look at as a casual flyer but would think strongly about as a business/frequent traveller.

        So I think which airlines you look at should be based on your travel profile. I can almost analogize it to business class vs. consumer class Internet services - consumer class is cheaper and is good enough most of the time. If you have special needs or are a heavy user, paying more for the business service is the way to go.

      • by tuomoks (246421)

        Same here - when flying in US. Expedia and many other "brokers" (a broker in this case - take your share with no real service) are now suffering because trying to maximize their profits too much! Flying (almost) world round and now finding better deals and faster even straight from airlines. As an systems person, working in, out, within, etc with airlines, never will (really) understand why they don't work together? None can fly everywhere, every time, have enough routes, seats, planes, personnel, and so on

      • by bgat (123664)

        If you are shopping for price, you probably aren't American's prime customer. Their specialty is in handling business travel, where passengers value perks like the ability to board early enough to be reasonably assured there will be overhead bin space for their carry-ons, regardless of when they actually arrive at the airport.

        I'm one of those people, in fact. I often can't get to the airport until a few minutes before boarding actually begins due to external time pressures and schedule conflicts, and I us

      • by Z00L00K (682162)

        I hope that they do have a better customer satisfaction record than Ryanair.

    • Re:Not really (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MoonBuggy (611105) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @09:06PM (#34740502) Journal

      To an extent it's true. If American Airlines no longer show up on comparison sites, I'd say it's very likely that it'll be harder to compare prices - the rest of their statement follows from that fact, but it somewhat hinges on the fact that people treat airline tickets as a commodity item (within a given route and class, obviously). If all you see is a price comparison, chances are you'll pick the cheapest and doesn't matter who gets you there. It's certainly the way I used to think, but having happened to do the same long haul run on a few different carriers this year I was quite surprised at the magnitude of difference in the experience. It's hard to succeed as the "more expensive but better service" airline if all people see are numbers. On the other hand, though, it's hard to succeed as the "expensive and crap" airline if all people see are numbers.

      There are definite merits to Expedia's argument. Although the airlines have multiple reasons to dislike the comparison sites, and the published reason might sound reasonable (and even beneficial to the consumer), cutting out the middle man is only a good idea if the middle man isn't providing a beneficial service. In this case, greater access to information is the service, and I think we probably do want that to be available. By taking away the commissions, you take away the possibility for comparison right across the market.

      • maybe airlines don't want to compete who is cheaper by 1 dollar. only one dollar decides which airline wins your money (top of the list). so i'm guessing they want to be profitable but they can't be with all these brokers pitting airlines against each other in one place.

        i'm not picking sides, i just want to show the other side.

      • Re:Not really (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Sunday January 02, 2011 @09:58PM (#34740706) Homepage

        You're got good points, but there are so many ads about price comparison it seems like there's a great chance American is just shooting themselves in the foot with this one. I haven't flown in years, and it wouldn't occur to me to go to an airline's site unless I knew they were the only ones who served the route or I had just heard about how incredible they were from someone I trusted.

        I totally understand the quality argument. Midwest Express is supposed to be quite nice in the areas they fly. On the other hand, I remember flying on some airlines in the 90s that aren't around anymore that were just horrible.

        If American thinks its quality is so much better, let them show it. Why not partner with Expedia to add "Air Experience" rating next to each price, where the ratings are based on passenger and secret shopper testing. That way you could see that American is charging $200 (with a 4 star rating) and Discount-O-Jet is charging $175 (with a 1.5 star rating) and make your choice. It would also give Expedia something to promote over the competition.

        Of course, that would be a 'put up or shut up' move, and if American isn't as good as they want everyone to think they are, it could really backfire.

        Side note: Remember travel agents? There used to be people, in offices, that you went to to book airplane tickets. Only they could see the prices. They used to be everywhere. In the past 15 years, it's a job that has completely disappeared. I get the feeling AA wants to go back to that world, where they could schmooze the agents to get more customers.

        • by theNAM666 (179776)

          Travel agents still exist in Europe and elsewhere-- it amazes me that they do.

          I get the feeling that AA doesn't realize that that age, has passed. I think it was AA's chair, sometime past, who while contemplating a bailout for the industry, stated that AA's business was still providing luxury, not transport. SouthWest's chair shot back that this was ridiculous-- often, the difference between profitability and loss for a SWA flight was the four seats they had found a was to squeeze in the back of

      • Once American disappears from Kayak or Orbitz, they're off my radar. The market differentiation among the carriers is really small, despite what their MBAs and marketing professionals think. I buy for price/destination and least hassle, and do so frequently. I fly domestically, and internationally. Southwest is a last resort, because they aren't the cheapest, aren't the most convenient, and have a lot of second-best airport slots. That they are profitable is somehow holy, and I'm glad for them, and not a st

  • Wasn't this already posted as Comcast versus Netflix? Maybe we'll get lucky and all the big megacorps will end up at each other's throats for once, instead of at the consumers'...
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @08:00PM (#34740232) Journal
    I sense the emergence of some job openings for programmers and software engineers skilled in the art of swiftly building, and iterating as needed, scraper agents to aggregate numerical and geographic data from multiple multi-step forms driven websites...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      the meta-search site www.kayak.com pretty much does this...

      • by tuomoks (246421)

        No, it doesn't, I mean kayak - tried something to Havana, no go! None of the sites which doesn't give me all the flights, for example to Havana, will work - how can I trust them? Do they include all the airlines? Or - maybe I'm coming back from Australia, Europe - London, Paris, Rome, Madrid, where ever and want a nice, warm stop? Or? Same, of course, with Expedia - so - maybe I keep using international flight bookings! Besides - usually (much) cheaper than Expedia, Orbiz, etc - go figure, commission?

    • by gbjbaanb (229885)

      and I can see job openings for lawyers skilled in the art of claiming website copyright violations :)

      • I would be perversely curious to see what tactics they would use in the attempt to evade the precedent of Feist v. Rural...
        • by gbjbaanb (229885)

          one thing I know is that there are lots of insurance 'supermarket' sites in the UK. They used to screenscrape but now hook into insurers systems in return for a cut. However, there's one insurer that advertises that "you will never find them on comparison websites" (its Directline) and uses this as a selling point to say they're cheaper because they cut out the middleman.

          I don't know how they do it, but they're not on those comparison sites.

          Similarly, there was a bit of a kerfuffle when one bank decided to

          • My understanding is that(unlike the US where, in the case noted above, the Supreme Court ruled that 'creativity' was an essential quality, without which something could not fall under the scope of the constitution's authorization of copyright law), the UK is, at least to some degree, a 'sweat of one's brow' jurisdiction, where the difficulty and labor of compiling a work, even if purely mechanistic and uncreative, can make it copyright-protectable.

            It could also just be that, while scraping works well on
    • This isn't about merely presenting the fares - This is about actually booking airline tickets, including upsales and seat selections, complete with integration to inventories and loads. For that, you need more than a screen-scraping 'fare compare' application...
    • by Kohath (38547)

      That doesn't result in a ticket commission from American Airlines.

  • by Rix (54095) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @08:04PM (#34740248)

    It's the propaganda wing of the Falun Gong cult.

    • Actually I've found their articles to be insightful. They have real stories on China that don't get covered elsewhere, especially on the inner workings of the communist party.

      As for "cult," that's what the communist party calls Falun Gong :-), so check your sources. I haven't seen any evidence that term is accurate: charge money (no), keep a membership list (no), coercive (no). The Falun Gong has been subject to a massively brutal persecution -- kudos to them for enduring the CCP and without violence.

      • by Rix (54095)

        They're pretty out there. They're very active around Vancouver, protesting the Chinese embassy and such. They're mostly harmless, and they've got mostly fair points about the Chinese government, but yeah, they're a cult.

  • by Harald Paulsen (621759) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @08:06PM (#34740252) Homepage

    According to a hotel manager I know expedia wanted 1/3 commision on hotel rooms.

    Sure, he appreciated the extra business, but at the same time it was a major cut in their profit margin.

    And expedia (and other hotel booking services) now wield so much power that it's hard for hotels to say now. More so for hotels that are not part of a chain that can afford to say no.

    • by cgenman (325138)

      While I can understand the concern, what are the advertising budgets for hotels now vs operating budgets? I know that in software projects spending 2x the development budget on advertising is normal. If the hotel is spending 1/2 as much on customer acquisitions as they do on product, giving 1/3rd to Expedia to funnel customers your way might make sense.

    • That guy was just working you for a tip. He's booking a room when he otherwise wouldn't be so the commish is just advertising expense.

    • From one who spent 25+ years on hotel management in different places (USA, Mexico, Grand Cayman, Netherland Antilles, etc.) the "normal" commission earned by a bookie, be it a Wholesaler (Tour Operator), Retailer (Travel Agency) or Booking Engine, is 30%.

      Some hotels limit that to 12-15% for certain markets in order to remain competitive, but generally, one third of the rack rate is the norm. That is why you should insist in getting a discount on rack rate, no matter how you book it. As we say in the industry, no one pays rack, except the foolish or desperate.

      On the other hand, if your hotel shows less than 30% of Sales as GOP, you're doing something wrong...

    • by grapeape (137008)

      Umm if expedia was responsible for the "extra business" that implies that they are rooms that would otherwise have gone empty, thus any profit margin was more than they were going to have. I do think its funny that once something like expedia, hotels.com, orbitz, etc shows a moderate level of success businesses involved tend to try and dismiss them as unncessary and completely forget the empty seats and rooms that came before.

      • by DavidTC (10147)

        Indeed.

        There are a few industries that basically cost the same amount to operate no matter how many people are there. For example, for a theatrical show, if they're about to start a show with an empty seat, and they can put someone in it for a quarter, they should do so, because, duh, they just made a quarter. There is no cost, the show is the same no matter what. (Hell, because of the possibility they might buy concessions, and because packed show give people better impressions of the show, they really sh

    • Until quite recently, one of the major online travel booking sites used to add their own change fee if you wanted to change your flight. You still had to pay the airline's fee, so the reward that the website gave you for using their site was increasing your cost.

      I was using Hotels.com (really Expedia, I think) for hotel bookings. However, I stopped after one bad experience. I booked through hotels.com and when I arrived at the hotel, they denied that I had booked the room. When my credit card statement came

      • by tompaulco (629533)
        I have also been double charged by the hotel and the booking site. Most annoying, but at least in my case, the hotel removed the doubled charge. However, in another incident, I was charge an "environmental charge" for smoking in my room. I informed them that I have never smoked in my life and I wanted the charge removed. They refused. I spoke to the manager. They refused to remove the charge. So I called American Express and told them to remove X amount from my bill from the hotel. Thank goodness the credi
  • Expedia vs Kayak (Score:4, Informative)

    by salmonz (697297) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @08:07PM (#34740254)
    It's Expedia. Who cares? Just use Kayak.com
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Comment brought to you by: KAYAK.COM!! Thanks for shopping SLASHDOT DOT ORG!!

  • by Midnight Thunder (17205) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @08:10PM (#34740268) Homepage Journal

    You may be surprised, but in certain cases going to your local travel agent can get you a lower price. If they don't, compare what they are offering you and be sure to let them know you can get it cheaper online. A real-life travel agent can reduce their commission, while a web site won't.

    • by am 2k (217885)

      Last time I tried this, the travel agent added 20% commission to the ticket price for that ten minute phone call.

      • by Peeteriz (821290)

        Well, it's his loss, isn't it ? The only question after that is if you just thank him and leave or publicly laugh at his failure in negotiations.

    • by Lulfas (1140109)
      In reference to airline tickets, there really isn't any commission to talk about, for travel agents anyways. The thing with them is the extras; hotel rooms, cruises, all-inclusives, etc. It is a matter of building a relationship with you. Usually if a travel agent is finding a cheaper deal on an airline ticket it is using an odd fare class. Source: Grandmother owns a travel agency.
    • by OzPeter (195038)

      You may be surprised, but in certain cases going to your local travel agent can get you a lower price.

      So can booking from the "right" country. I am off to Canadia for two weeks for work. Flights proposed by company from Canadian end $US350. **Same** flights booked by me from US end $US200. I have seen that sort of price discrepancy many times before on both US domestic and other foreign cariers. With that sort of raping ^h^h^h^h^h personal service I am always amazed that airlines are still in business.

      • by drsmithy (35869)

        With that sort of raping ^h^h^h^h^h personal service I am always amazed that airlines are still in business.

        It's pretty much a given that these sorts of discrepancies are due to taxes and fees on the local arm of the business.

    • by ftobin (48814) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @11:26PM (#34740972) Homepage

      Seriously, has this really ever worked for you? If a brick and mortar site can offer a cheaper price, how come they aren't publishing their price online via some method (perhaps not Orbitz, but something similar). When you've entered a travel agent or other brick and mortar site, you're in a world where it becomes difficult to price-compare. There is little incentive for them to have low prices once they control your environment.

      It's rare, very rare, when I can find a cheaper price for anything at a brick and mortar site.

  • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @08:28PM (#34740320)
    It's funny that this story comes out now, as I was just considering changing my sig to "Have a pleasant, comfortable flight - or fly American Airlines." I'm really considering starting a blog about how BAD american Airlines has become.

    I just flew on American Friday night from Honolulu to Chicago; 45 minutes out of Hawaii, the captain turned the "Fasten Seats Belts" light back on - at the first excuse for a mild bump - and then left it on uninterrupted for the next 7.5+ HOURS - in smooth. clear air - all the way until we landed - 36 hours later, and my feet and ankles are STILL swollen. I had noticed on the way out that American seemed to have developed this policy of keeping everybody fastened in at all times, but the ride home confirmed that in spades. American CLEARLY has developed a policy to keep you seated at all times, your personal comfort and blood clots be damned. I also noticed that they've changed the "...and we suggest you keep your seat belt fastened while seated..." part of the stdrap.h to "...we REQUIRE you to keep your seat belt fastened while seated...". Fuck you, you're just cattle (who has already paid your money) at the other end of a toggle switch. And we have "federal regulations require you to obey us" on our side.

    It's clear to me that they've changed the policy both as a convenience to the flight attendants and as a sop to their cowardly lawyers in case some passenger bumps their knee during a flight and decides to sue.

    On they way out, it cost $25 per checked bag, and one, which was over 50lbs (52.7 to be exact), cost an ADDITIONAL $50 over that.

    Of course, there's no free food anymore, but they'll SELL you a chicken sandwich for $10, or a can of Pringles for $4.50. What I found interesting was that they don't take cash anymore - just credit/debit cards - I guess that "...all debts, public and private..." printed on the money doesn't mean anything if you're an airline.

    All in all, flying American recently is the worst (modulo TSA related fun, which is a different rant) in-air experience I've had in the last 35 years, and that includes the flight from Nairobi to London on Air India - which was about as bad as you would expect.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jonwil (467024)

      The "all debts public and private" line on US currency doesn't apply since the purchase of food from American Airlines is not a debt.

      If your power company refused to take cash for payment of your power bill, that would be considered a debt and the relavent law about legal tender would apply. But not in this case.

    • I just get up and go anyway - I've never had an attendant say anything to me heading to the head when the fasten seatbelt light is on.
    • by trampel (464001) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @09:00PM (#34740472) Homepage

      Is this really specific to American Airlines?

      I noticed on a recent transatlantic Delta flight that the fasten seatbelts lights were on all the time, but nobody seemed to care and the flight attendants certainly didn't enforce it. Or, are you saying that in the 7.5h on your flight nobody went to the restroom.

      The baggage fees and nickling&diming for food are indefensible, but it seems they are standard practice in the airline industry these days.

      I'd love to see an airline that treats their passengers better, but AFAIK all the major U.S. carriers are equally unfriendly.

      • by Mashiki (184564)

        No it's not specific to AA. I've flown SW, KLM-Delta(and delta before the merger), JetBlue, AirTran all in the last 2 years and they've all done the same thing.

        But if you want to experience unfriendly? Try air canada, they've managed to exceed in the "we're fucking you in the ass. AND YOU WILL LIKE IT!" method of dealing with people. No shock as to why they're losing business to WestJet.

      • by mjwx (966435)

        The baggage fees and nickling&diming for food are indefensible, but it seems they are standard practice in the US airline industry these days.

        There, fixed that for you.

        This seems to be an issue with US airlines only. Even QANTAS/BA treats people better then that (and I dont have kind things to say about QANTAS's service). From my city I can fly Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, Malaysian Air Services, Cathay Pacific or Emirates, three of those are consistently in the worlds top 5 airlines. They don

      • Baggage fee are not new. You have a certain weight authorized with your ticket, (depending on class and trip it can go from 25 Kg to 40 Kg) and everything over that is Excess Baggage, for which a fee will be asked. We (yeah I wqork in airline nindustry) even have a document named EBD (Excess Baggage Doc) for this case, and when I started 10 years ago it was already existing. What might be new, is that the agent are asked to ENFORCE the rule strictly on baggage weight instead of being more relax and allow a
    • by hawguy (1600213) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @09:09PM (#34740520)

      I had the exact same experience -- on a flight from SFO to HNL, the fasten seatbelt light was off for less than an hour on the entire flight.

      Once someone got up to use the bathroom while the flight attendants had just started serving beverages. She firmly told him "There's a reason the fasten seat belt light is on sir, return to your seat!". However, an hour later the fasten seatbelt light was still on and, someone in front of me hit the flight attendant call button to ask for a beverage. The same flight attendant said "Come on back to the galley to pick it up".

      They need to have 2 fasten seatbelt lights, one that means "We think you should sit down and buckle in because there might be turbulence" and one that means "Turbulence is highly likely all passengers and flight attendants must remain seated".

      I've never understood why passengers have to sit down when the fasten seat belt light is on, but often flight attendants are pushing a 200 pound cart with a couple pots of scalding hot coffee on top of it down the aisles.

    • by SpecBear (769433) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @09:20PM (#34740552)

      Yeah, I hate American Airlines. The final straw for me was when I was checking baggage, and it took longer than getting a new car registration.

      Then it struck me: I was waiting in line wishing that American Airlines could be as quick, competent, and customer friendly as my local DMV office.

      I haven't flown with them since.

    • by mjwx (966435) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @10:56PM (#34740878)

      we REQUIRE you to keep your seat belt fastened while seated

      No shit. You're in an oversized cigar tube travelling at 900 KM/h and you don't think that's prudent? Your safety be damned.

      All airlines require you to keep your seatbelt fastened whilst seated. They'd rather you didn't move about the cabin unnecessarily so that you:
      1. Dont hurt yourself when the plane hits a bit of turbulence.
      2. Do not interfere with the operation of the flight staff.
      3. Do not be a nuisance to other passengers.

      You've never flown over the equator have you? I live in Australia so that means I do it quite a bit to get to other countries and every time we cross that line separating the hemisphere there is turbulence, often quiet violent turbulence and every 4 out of 5 flights someone who is stupid enough to be sitting without their seatbelt gets hurt (normally there is an announcement on the PA asking if there is a doctor on board).

      It's not some giant conspiracy to make you uncomfortable, it's for your own safety and the COMFORT OF OTHER PASSENGERS. I cant stress this enough, I absolutely hate it when some idiot lets their crotchspawn run up and down the aisle or when some smelly retard has his hairy armpit slung over my chair so he can chin wag with his equally smelly mate.

      Planes are not luxury cruse liners, they do not have roomy cabins, they are designed to get me to where I want to go within a matter of hours, for that time I can compress myself (not a small person) into a seat and be fucking courteous to other passengers. So please for the sake of everyone, sit down, shut up and put your belt on.

    • by Man On Pink Corner (1089867) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @11:45PM (#34741010)

      I just flew on American Friday night from Honolulu to Chicago; 45 minutes out of Hawaii, the captain turned the "Fasten Seats Belts" light back on - at the first excuse for a mild bump - and then left it on uninterrupted for the next 7.5+ HOURS - in smooth. clear air - all the way until we landed - 36 hours later

      Are you sure your plane didn't crash on an uncharted island with a temporal anomaly?

    • by theNAM666 (179776)

      It has been FAA policy that all PAX must have their seatbelts fastened since an AA plane encountered sudden and heavy microturbulence out of what I believe was San Diego in 1996, leaving multiple passengers who had not worn seatbelts with permanent damage after they slammed into the overhead compartments.

      I would have asked the crew to ask the pilot what was up-- for all you know, the microturbulence warning indicator was on for the entire flight. But for all you know, he forgot or was having a drink wi

    • by tuomoks (246421)

      Not AA and not really any specific airline, but... Last time (well, not the last but..) out of Paris to US, "new" terminal, MCD the only food place(?), plastic chairs, of course - no smoking, no drinks - except "pops", of course, etc, etc! When asked, what (the hell!) happened, the (nice) airport girls told that it was, what the "american" customers wanted?? What the XXX? Since then - only Air France and others who use the "old" terminals, leather (instead of plastic) chairs, bars with real food (instead of

    • by T-Bucket (823202)

      I hate to tell ya, but liability has a lot to do with this. (I am, in fact, an airline pilot). We're instructed to keep the sign on unless we're 150% sure that the air will be smooth ahead. The reason for this is if the sign is on and we hit a nice big chunk of turbulence, it's YOUR fault if you bounce off the ceiling (because you were disobeying the sign). Whereas, if the sign is off you end up with a broken leg and a concussion from that bag that fell on your head, the airline gets sued for not telling yo

  • by robbak (775424) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @08:29PM (#34740322) Homepage

    I just thought that everybody used these services (WebJet in australia) to research flights and prices, and then went to the airline's own sites to book? You might on a rare occasion find the flight you chose booked out in the few seconds it took you to switch sites, but, if that happened, you'd just go back and choose a second flight.

    • The last couple of times I've tried using webjet their website has been malfunctioning when I've tried to book, despite me having used them in the past. Which is kind of a pain as their service for finding international flights used to be good.

      The domestic prices on Qantas/VB websites weren't any different...

    • by hawguy (1600213)

      Why would you do this when you can book right on Expedia or Orbitz for the same price as booking direct on the airline's site?

      • by drsmithy (35869)

        Why would you do this when you can book right on Expedia or Orbitz for the same price as booking direct on the airline's site?

        It removes a non-trivial layer of obfuscation should anything go wrong.

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      The price is the same, so most people won't bother.

      I sometimes do just to remove a middle man from any disputes/issues that might arise, one less place for a screw up.

  • Inevitable Battle (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @08:44PM (#34740404)

    For as long as I can remember (practically since deregulation) the airlines' approach has been to maximize profits through increased pricing complexity - or "efficient yield management" as they are more likely to label it. The core reason for the existence of airline fare search engines is to reduce pricing complexity. Therefore it seems obvious that the airlines would do everything they can to kill the search engines - but they can only go so far because they more they squeeze, the more consumer demand they create for the search engines. Where is equilibrium? I dunno. I would like for it to be at the point where the airlines quit the pricing games and try to compete on service instead, but that would be too easy.

    • by ftobin (48814)

      For as long as I can remember (practically since deregulation) the airlines' approach has been to maximize profits through increased pricing complexity - or "efficient yield management" as they are more likely to label it.

      This seems to happen in most commodotized industries where there are few suppliers: they increase the number of axes on from the final price is determined. Another good example is credit cards with rebate systems. By introducing dimensions such as "which quarter is it" and "how much have

  • by citylife (202595) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @08:45PM (#34740414)

    Airlines long ago eliminated commissions for in-person travel agents because they had the market power and how were 1000's of mom and pop agents going to fight the airlines? Fearing dis-intermediation, the airlines continued to pay Expedia / Orbitz and the reservations systems such as Worldspan commission for deal flow but now the airlines have the market power with their own sites.

    Its a hard dose of reality for the online sites, who don't offer much functionality above what you can get on Southwest.com. My mom is a travel agent- and while she is computer challenged she can run command line commands into Worldspan faster than I can login to Orbitz. I've never understood why someone would spend hours online finding a site when a travel agent can do it all for you for almost nothing. My mother selected 3 of the 4 hotels for my honeymoon, the other coming from the NY times travel section. Guess which one was the dump with paper thin walls and crappy beds?

  • by rrossman2 (844318) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @08:50PM (#34740434)

    Just happened to look at ITA Software's website.. and look at their customer list:
    www.itasoftware.com/about/customers.html
    I do believe I see Bing as one of the customers :)

    • by ADRA (37398)

      Microsoft owns Expedia, and although ITA makes software to facilitate an internet booking engine, the areas are similar enough for Google to create a site that would compete directly with them.

  • by GayBliss (544986) on Sunday January 02, 2011 @08:58PM (#34740460) Homepage

    Expedia has been trying hard for several years to become a travel retailer that determines the pricing themselves, and they want travel companies (hotels, airlines, and rental cars) to give them wholesale pricing. Right now, like any travel agent, they get a percentage of the rate that is normally determined by the travel company, but they would like to be able to set whatever rate they think they can get and give the hotel/airline/car company a flat wholesale rate. This would give Expedia a lot of control over rates, and they could make a lot more profit because they could take everything above the negotiated rate, instead of the fixed percentage. Luckily the travel companies see that this model would destroy their own business and have resisted.

    Naturally the travel companies would prefer that people book through their own websites, because they don't have to pay the commission, which is typically around 10% of the price.

    • Naturally the travel companies would prefer that people book through their own websites, because they don't have to pay the commission, which is typically around 10% of the price.

      Also, if people book through the travel companies' websites, they can condition you to think that company A has the best price for you in a particular class, so there is no need to check anybody else. Every time I see the Southwest Airlines ads about how you can only buy tickets on Southwest's website where they say, "You don't want to have to check a bunch of different sites to find the best price", I think that they are actually forcing me to do that by not allowing me to get their tickets from Expedia,

  • If you book online with American Airlines, make sure to add $50 per checked bag. I bought an AA flight because it was cheaper, only to find out it was actually $100 more expensive ($50 checked bag, both ways). It would be nice if it asked you this when comparing tickets.

    • You probably carry too much stuff. Most people should be able to live for weeks out of a carry-on and a back pack. I did, and no, there were never any complaints about my smell or laughter when I wore the same outfit.

      If my ticket costs less because you are paying $100 more for baggage, I say, "Bring it On"!
  • by Monkeyman334 (205694) on Monday January 03, 2011 @12:21AM (#34741100)
    If airlines were so hurt by websites like Expedia, then you'd think they'd inform users that they could get better prices if they just went to the AA website. But every time I've tried finding a flight on Expedia, and then going and finding the same flight on AA, the price is outrageously high with AA. Really, I think it's like TV networks fighting netflix and Hulu (on TV boxes), the networks want to divide up the market and overcharge you for crap you don't want, and Netflix just makes it too convenient for people to get what they want at the lowest price. Same thing with Expedia, services like that need to stick around.

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