It's a good job that the season of peace and love is nearly over, because the fight between American Airlines and travel sites Orbitz & Expedia is certainly hotting up even as the US recovers from winter snowstorms.
Orbitz and American Airlines have been in court since early December, and towards the end of last month the airline pulled its tickets from Orbitz. Expedia pushed American's tickets further down its search results as a penalty, and so American pulled its tickets from them too.
If this all sounds rather like a playground dispute, it's not -- American is saying it's trying to cut out the airfare global distribution middleman, and the travel sites are saying that American wants to cut out comparison websites, reducing the ease of price checking and maximising profits for the airline.
Australian fare-shoppers are affected too. Qantas, American Airlines' oneworld partner, whose US codeshare flights are operated by American, had no immediate comment when contacted by Australian Business Traveller. However, existing tickets booked on Expedia in Australia and the USA are still valid, although American Airlines fares are absent from Expedia in both countries, we have confirmed.
The bottom line for travellers is that no one travel site has the consistently cheapest fares. Savvy travellers know which airlines fly the routes they want and check on the airlines' own websites if prices aren't appearing on other sites. Some overseas airlines -- like Southwest in the US and many low-cost carriers in the UK -- opt out of their results appearing on travel sites entirely. So shop around.
Australian Business Traveller recommends checking relevant airport sites (and the airport's page on Wikipedia) to find out which airlines fly between which airports, and then checking prices between the travel sites and the airlines' own websites. A bit of online sleuthing can discover a hefty discount.
About John Walton
Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.