Will American Airlines go dark for Orbitz and corporations?
Things could remain quiet for a little while until either American Airlines or Travelport blinks, and then all hell will break loose — again.
After multiple deadline extensions, the content participation contract between American Airlines and Travelport expired January 15, setting the stage for more disruption if either party gets tired of the status quo.
For the moment, at least, both sides are playing nice in their public statements, at least.
American says it intends to keep providing its fares and and other products to Travelport’s three global distribution systems, which provide the information to travel agencies large and small, including Orbitz, travel management companies, corporations, and home-based agents.
And, American apparently doesn’t intend — for now — to charge travel agencies any increased fees to access the airline’s flights. American states:
Travelport and American will continue to seek a new long-term deal but as of today we have not yet come to agreement. We are still committed to finding a solution that will work for and serve the interests of all parties.
Although Travelport can no longer guarantee access to American’s full content given that the agreement has expired, American intends to provide uninterrupted access to its content for display and sale through the Travelport global distribution systems while we continue to work toward a new agreement so long as American is not disadvantaged by Travelport, and Travelport displays American’s content in a fair and neutral manner.
For its part, Travelport states that the two parties are committed to forging a new contract, and it expects that American will provide ongoing access to its flights. Travelport wrote the following to its travel agency and corporate customers:
We are writing to give you an update on the status of the contractual relationship between Travelport GDS and American Airlines (American). As previously stated, the existing full content agreements between our two companies were due to expire today, January 15, 2013.
We have both committed to working towards a new long-term deal but, as of today, we have not been able to come to an agreement that Travelport believes will work for and serve the interests of all parties.
Since American’s full content commitment to Travelport has expired, starting today we will no longer collect Content Continuity Program or Super Access Product fees for American bookings until further notice. Although Travelport can no longer guarantee access to American’s full content, we believe American intends to continue providing you with uninterrupted access to its content for display and sale through the Travelport GDSs while we continue to work towards a new agreement.
We will continue to keep you updated on the status of any continued negotiations and appreciate your continued support.
The above-referenced Travelport Content Continuity Program and Super Access Product took money out of the pockets of travel agents, and helped Travelport charge American lower booking fees in exchange for a promise of “full content.” These programs protected travel agencies from any increased fees from the airline, but so far American states it has no intention to levy new fees.
In the past, when contracts expired or negotiations got rough, the airline would charge increased fees for flight access and/or the GDSs would bias the airline’s flights.
Neither action apparently has happened so far.
Meanwhile, Orbitz, which gets flight data from Travelport’s Apollo GDS, continues to display American Airlines’ flights, and an Orbitz spokesperson claims the American-Travelport contract expiration has “no impact.”
In the recent past, talks have been stymied over economics and American Airlines’ push to have travel agencies tie into the airline’s system through “direct-connects” instead of through the GDSs.