The dispute between American Airlines and one of the major online travel agencies, Orbitz, has escalated. The two sides wound up in court in Chicago over it, and American won a round yesterday (Tuesday). The airline stopped giving its ticket inventory to Orbitz as part of an effort to drive more business to the American Web site and save money that it now pays other sites, such as Orbitz, Expedia and Travelocity, and the big global distribution systems that serve traditional travel agencies, to sell its tickets. Read more about it here, with some analysis and reaction from those representing American's best customers.
UPDATE: A complete story, explaining the background of what's going on and including more reaction from the travel business, was published Thursday in the trade paper Aviation Week. Find the story here.
This is another example of the truly remarkable job the major airlines have made in the last two years to shift costs that were always borne by all customers, also known as ticketed passengers, onto each individual customer or to the travel agents that sold the tickets. They've succeeded beautifully in doing it with fees for baggage and to sit in your preferred seat and a host of other services -- so much so that ancillary revenue is becoming a larger portion of the total than ticket revenue is. Now the campaign has turned to the ticket-distribution system. Let me know what your experience is if you wind up searching for American's inventory on its own Web site, after you've comparison shopped all airlines on Orbitz.