Expedia Hides American Airlines Prices After Orbitz Dispute

Expedia Inc.'s travel website is hiding airfares for American Airlines after the third-largest U.S. carrier pulled data from Orbitz Worldwide Inc. as part of a legal dispute, according to Bloomberg.

Prices for American flights no longer appear at the top of the site when passengers search for tickets, while those for competitors such as United Continental Holdings Inc. are still shown side by side so travelers can compare.

"This has been done in light of both American Airlines' recent decision to prevent Orbitz from selling its inventory, and a possible disruption in Expedia's ability to sell American Airlines tickets when our contract with American Airlines expires," Expedia said Dec. 23 in an e-mailed statement. The company declined to say when its accord with American ends.

"We're disappointed that Expedia is making American Airlines flights and fares more difficult to find," Ryan Mikolasik, a spokesman for American, said in an e-mailed statement. "This discriminatory action is unwarranted, especially considering that American has taken no action against and continues to operate in good faith with Expedia."

The move by Bellevue, Washington-based Expedia widened the conflict between online travel agencies and airlines such as American that seek to drive more consumers to their own websites.

American has developed a system called Direct Connect that provides fare pricing and options directly to larger online travel agencies. The Fort Worth, Texas-based airline also is trying to handle more bookings through its AA.com website.

AMR Corp.'s American dropped Orbitz on Dec. 21 after an Illinois state court in Chicago lifted a temporary restraining order granted last month that prevented the airline from doing so. Orbitz is partly owned by Travelport LP, which distributes airline fare data.

The American-Orbitz dispute flared on Nov. 4 when the airline said it would stop providing fare data on Dec. 1 unless a new contract was reached. That triggered a court bid to block the move and criticism by Orbitz Chief Executive Officer Barney Harford that American was making a "broad attack" on ticket distributors.

Sabre Holdings Corp., the parent of Travelocity.com, said Dec. 21 that 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."

Sabre is a former American unit that was spun off by the airline in 2000.

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