The airline-OTA fight is as old as online travel, but it is picking up. Metasearch sites, such as Kayak and Google Flight Search, are a key battleground as some airlines establish special rules to avoid comparisons with competitors.
The feud is an old one: Airline sites offering fee-free booking had an edge over OTAs until just a few years ago, when OTAs began eliminating booking fees that added as much as $12 per ticket to fliers’ bills. Now, the lures include exclusive promotions, add-ons and, at least for Frontier, fee waivers. “It’s simple math,” says Rick Seaney, chief executive of comparison site Farecompare.com. “If it costs you, the airline, $16 to sell a ticket somewhere else and $2 on your own site, you have some money to play with.”
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