A little while back, some of the major online travel agencies waived fees for flight bookings. Has it had an effect on airline direct Web site bookings? Yes, say some airline executives. What are the airlines doing about it? They can't say.
When asked if those moves by OTAs led to a loss of supplier-direct bookings, incoming Continental president Jeff Smisek told analysts this week, "We are clearly seeing an impact; there is no question about that. In terms of our response, it goes more toward pricing and our general counsel never lets us talk about that so I am afraid I can't talk about that."
Asked a similar question this week, American Airlines CFO Tom Horton said, "We do see the OTAs have grown year over year. AA.com has also significantly grown year over year. It would appear that the increase of the OTAs has been at the cost of the traditional channels." When asked if AA would offer mileage bonuses or other perks for bookings directly through AA.com, Horton said, "We don't have anything to comment on today."
At Delta, CEO Richard Anderson today said the loss of direct bookings on delta.com resulting from OTAs eliminating booking fees has been "not too high. Delta.com continues to represent over 30 percent of our bookings and we have seen a negligible change in the bookings that come in--a few percentage points. Overall, it has not had much of an impact on our distribution strategy."
Anderson isn't the biggest fan of OTAs. In April, he said
that "ultimately the OTAs should pay for the content" they access and sell to consumers.