American Airlines said its decision to withdraw fares from consumer websites powered by Orbitz will not affect Orbitz for Business clients. But that decision, telegraphed in May, is another step in AA's aggressive distribution strategy. The airline today announced that it stopped listing its fares on Orbitz consumer sites, "effective immediately," and it would do likewise for subsidiary US Airways fares as of Sept. 1.
"We have worked tirelessly with Orbitz to reach a deal with the economics that allow us to keep costs low and compete with low-cost carriers," according to a statement attributed to AA president Scott Kirby.
Kirby in May told analysts that leaving an online travel agency is "really not that big of a deal." At the time, he alluded to AA being delisted from Expedia in early 2011, an episode he said had "no impact."
This isn't the first time AA has withdrawn from Orbitz sites. It did so in late 2010 as part of what Orbitz Worldwide CEO Barney Harford described as the carrier's "first salvo" in a "broad attack ... on the travel distribution landscape." Legal battles ensued. About six months later, AA was ordered to reinstate booking capability on Orbitz sites, though litigation continued until the parties in April 2013 agreed to resolve all issues.
In information posted to its website, AA wrote that while AA and US Airways tickets booked via Orbitz consumer sites remain valid, any "changes to existing reservations must be made through each airline's reservations department," in which case the airlines "will waive our customary fees for modifying travel agency bookings for affected customers who need to make changes to their travel plans."
Though AA said Orbitz for Business customers are not affected by its decision, information on its website did not guarantee that would be the case indefinitely, instead noting that "it is our intent to continue" to list with the corporate travel management company division of Orbitz Worldwide.
At press time, Orbitz Worldwide's stock price was down more than 7 percent to $7.82. On short notice, company officials were not available to provide comment.