American Airlines pulls its flight listings from Orbitz

Thousands of travelers can no longer book American Airlines tickets on Orbitz.

On Wednesday, a judge refused to grant a preliminary injunction to prevent American from pulling its flight listings from the travel website. The Fort Worth-based carrier quickly removed all of its content.

At issue are the fees American and other airlines pay to the big travel reservation systems, called "global distribution systems," to display flights and make bookings. American wants more of its travel partners, such as travel agencies and websites, to connect directly to its own reservations system so it does not have to pay fees to the global distribution systems.

Airlines also typically pay a commission to travel sites when they sell a ticket.

"American Airlines regrets any inconvenience this may cause our customers," said American's vice president of sales, Derek DeCross. "While we could not reach an agreement with Orbitz, we are committed to letting customers know of the multitude of options they have to purchase travel on American Airlines."

Tickets already booked through Orbitz are still valid, American said, but any changes made to those reservations must be made through the airline. Also, corporations that used the Orbitz for Business service will have to use another travel agency to take advantage of contracted fares.

Orbitz spokesman Brian Hoyt called American's move unfortunate. He estimated that about 5 percent of Orbitz revenue comes from selling American Airlines tickets and associated products and that Orbitz generates $800 million of sales for American.

"We are confident that our consumer value proposition remains strong," Hoyt said. "In the near term, we believe that most of this ticket volume will be replaced by other airline suppliers."

American had told Orbitz's parent company, Travelport, that it would pull its flight listings Dec. 1 unless Orbitz connected directly to the airline's reservation system. Travelport runs two of the largest global distribution systems, Worldspan and Galileo.

A judge granted a temporary stay of that move last month at Orbitz's urging. Tuesday's ruling says that Orbitz can sue American later to determine whether American breached its contract with Orbitz.

The Business Travel Coalition, which represents corporate travel services, says the ruling will hurt Orbitz customers and could lead to more lawsuits between airlines and travel websites and agencies.

"American acts as if it's the country's biggest airline, when it's really No. 4 and falling," coalition Chairman Kevin Mitchell said. "Consumers may not even know American's flights are missing. The ones who will gain the most here are American's competitors, who will enjoy feasting this Christmas on turkey served up by American."

Sabre, a Southlake-based global distribution system originally created by American Airlines in the 1960s, said it opposes American's efforts to make travel agents use its own reservation system.

"American's actions will make it much harder and more costly for agents and consumers to easily comparison-shop among airlines, which will result in increased prices for consumers," said Chris Kroeger, senior vice president of Sabre Travel Network.

This report includes material from The Associated Press.

Andrea Ahles, 817-390-7631

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