Back to the future – airlines looking to cut out the middleman

I was looking to book a flight recently and of course went to my preferred carrier – American Airlines. As some of you might know, American has pulled its tickets from the large airfare brokers – Expedia and Orbitz. Now you can only go via AA.com to purchase tickets on American. Back to the future? Why do I say this?

Back when Orbitz and Expedia burst on the scene a decade ago, they shook up the travel market. Traditional travel agents were no longer necessary when it came to planning a simple trip to San Francisco or putting together a more complex month long European tour. Consumers now had the ability to book flights, hotels and rental cars via a few clicks of the mouse. These online travel aggragators put many travel agents out of business and allowed for consumers to secure low prices and increased options for their travel needs. Now we are seeing the next step of this evolution – the airlines looking to cut out the likes of Expedia and simply drive transactions and clients to their own web sites. What a novel idea.

With the strength of Bing and Google to search airfare and send you to the appropriate sites, why do you need to add a Expedia “layer” to our travel needs? Southwest, Delta and now American Airlines are not listing their airfares on these sites, feels like it might be the beginning of the end for some of the travel sites…consumers will be driven to the airline sites rather than a travel consolidator. Add to this the efforts the airlines are making in social media, such as Twitter only specials, and you can see how the airlines are looking to drive the consumer to AA.com or delta.com, rather than Orbitz.

What Orbitz did to travel agents is being done to them now by the airlines…back to the future.

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