American Airlines Fares Back on Orbitz After Scuffle

(Chicago Tribune/MCT) -

American Airlines and Chicago-based Orbitz Worldwide cut a deal that puts the airline’s fares and schedules back on Orbitz-owned websites after being missing for four days.

American said Tuesday it had withdrawn its fares from Orbitz-owned websites, including flagship Orbitz.com, because the airline could not come to an agreement with the online travel agency on a new contract. Neither side would specify exactly what the contractual sticking point was, but it likely included the fees the airline pays to Orbitz for displaying its fares, experts have said.

American’s fares and schedules were yanked immediately on Tuesday from Orbitz, while fares of its merger partner US Airways were slated to disappear Monday.

But on Friday, American announced it had signed a “letter of intent” with Orbitz to come to a deal, and its fares were back on Orbitz by Friday afternoon. US Airways fares will not be removed Monday, it said.

“The companies are working toward final agreements based on the letter of intent,” American said in a statement. Tickets purchased through Orbitz.com and other Orbitz-powered websites remain valid for travel, the airline said. Customers who want to change reservations bought through Orbitz should call Orbitz to make those changes, it said.

“We are pleased that our long-standing relationship with American Airlines allowed us to quickly resolve business matters, and that we continue to offer a broad range of options, including American Airlines and US Airways flights, to the millions of shoppers who book travel on our global sites each day,” Sam Fulton, president of Orbitz.com, said in a statement.

The dispute had set up a standoff of travel-industry giants.

American and merger partner US Airways together account for a quarter of the U.S. travel market, at a time when airline websites are becoming more popular with consumers for booking travel, compared with online travel agencies, according to market-research company PhoCusWright.

Meanwhile, Orbitz is the second-largest online travel agency for domestic air-travel bookings, next to Expedia.

This is not the first time the companies have clashed over a contract. American pulled its fares from Orbitz in late 2010 over a dispute with the online travel agency and its corporate parent at the time, Travelport, which now is in the process of divesting its stake in Orbitz. Then, in June 2011, an Illinois court ordered American Airlines to publish its fares and flight schedule on Orbitz. Norton said the dispute is unrelated to the current one.

American Airlines was among the major airlines that launched Orbitz in 2001.

In the U.S., Orbitz operates retail-travel-agency sites Orbitz.com and CheapTickets.com.