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Battle Escalates Between Airlines and Online Agents

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the fighting-the-booker dept.

Businesses 279

Ponca City writes "The Epoch Times reports that online travel booking giant Expedia has removed American Airlines from its travel website over disagreements with American's fee structure in the latest incident in an escalating battle between airlines and online travel agents. Although American gets roughly two-thirds of its revenues from third-party travel agents like Expedia, American has been looking for online agents to cut their fees as one way to lower fares — something that Expedia was not prepared to do. Expedia released a statement that American's action 'will result in higher costs and reduced transparency for consumers, making it difficult to compare ticket prices and options with offerings by other airlines,' while American urged customers to book directly on American's website for the lowest prices. Meanwhile Google is waiting in the wings with its recent proposal to purchase ITA Software, the developer of the Internet's leading technology to compare flights fares. 'Though 49 percent of travelers purchase travel online, it is still time consuming and slow to search for travel options online,' says a statement from Google, defending the ITA acquisition which is being opposed by Microsoft on anti-trust grounds. 'We plan to work with ITA to create a new, easier way for users to find better flight information online.'"

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279 comments

Not really (3)

shoehornjob (1632387) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740220)

Expedia released a statement that American's action 'will result in higher costs and reduced transparency for consumers, making it difficult to compare ticket prices and options with offerings by other airlines

Southwest has been doing this for some time now. Sounds like a bunch of FUD from Expedia.

Re:Not really (4, Insightful)

Low Ranked Craig (1327799) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740426)

I'd have to agree, and as it turns out Southwest is one of the few profitable airlines. When I have to fly I try Southwest first, then Jet Blue. If I can get their on either of those I drive or I don't go. Actually these days with all the shit going on at the airport if it's too far to drive I don't go.

Re:Not really (1)

shoehornjob (1632387) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740754)

Yeah I hear you. I'm going to Texas to see long lost family in a few days (first flight in a few years) and I looked for southwest first but they don't fly to a smaller airport that I want to go to so I had to fly with American. I would have gladly paid a bit more money for Southwest because they are much more professional. I checked Expedia, Travelocity etc and they all have the same flights and seats at the same price. I don't spend a lot of time comparing airline fares but from my perspective those sites don't provide much value added service. It would be nice if someone just plainly stated "this is your price if you book today, next week, next month etc so that everyone would know what the real price is. Also I love the "flight times and dates can not be changed and all flights are non refundable oh and would you like travel insurance in case your plans are changed" bullshit. Cmon I'm not stupid. I know this insurance crap is why you changed to a no refunds policy. That's insulting and if American wants to know why I won't fly on their airline if I can avoid it that would be a big reason right there. They're just trying to exploit every bit of that revenue stream because their business model is not as profitable as it once was.

Re:Not really (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34740832)

This is switching from comprehensive to ala carte pricing. As one who flies when he says he will, I'd rather not have the insurance automatically included in the price, even if by mandating it, it would be cheaper.

Low-cost airlines vs. traditional (5, Insightful)

schnell (163007) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740786)

When I have to fly I try Southwest first, then Jet Blue. If I can get their on either of those I drive or I don't go.

If you are a "casual" traveler - i.e. you typically travel for personal reasons or at your own discretion - you're dead on. Southwest, JetBlue and Virgin America are inexpensive, comfortable and usually will get you where you need to go on time. These airplanes don't offer much in the way of perks or status programs (other than getting you a free flight now and then), but as a casual flyer that's not a big deal.

But if you fly fairly often (say, 50,000 miles a year or more) for work etc., then the traditional carriers start making a lot more sense - mainly because they do have multiple classes, perks programs etc. For example, United is a pretty terrible airline - more expensive, bad customer service in many cases, less nice cabins ... if I were a non-frequently flyer, I wouldn't touch them with a 10-foot pole. However, because I fly a lot on United and its code share partners, I get a lot of perks. Specifically, I know that if my schedule changes and I need to fly standby, I will be able to get on ahead of pretty much anybody else. Ditto for if my flight is cancelled and I need to be rebooked. It's also worth the extra money to me (especially since I'm not usually the one paying it) to know in advance I won't get a middle seat, will get to board first and not have them run out of overhead luggage space, occasionally get upgraded to first class, and so forth. American Airlines to me falls into that group of airlines I'd never look at as a casual flyer but would think strongly about as a business/frequent traveller.

So I think which airlines you look at should be based on your travel profile. I can almost analogize it to business class vs. consumer class Internet services - consumer class is cheaper and is good enough most of the time. If you have special needs or are a heavy user, paying more for the business service is the way to go.

Re:Not really (5, Insightful)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740502)

To an extent it's true. If American Airlines no longer show up on comparison sites, I'd say it's very likely that it'll be harder to compare prices - the rest of their statement follows from that fact, but it somewhat hinges on the fact that people treat airline tickets as a commodity item (within a given route and class, obviously). If all you see is a price comparison, chances are you'll pick the cheapest and doesn't matter who gets you there. It's certainly the way I used to think, but having happened to do the same long haul run on a few different carriers this year I was quite surprised at the magnitude of difference in the experience. It's hard to succeed as the "more expensive but better service" airline if all people see are numbers. On the other hand, though, it's hard to succeed as the "expensive and crap" airline if all people see are numbers.

There are definite merits to Expedia's argument. Although the airlines have multiple reasons to dislike the comparison sites, and the published reason might sound reasonable (and even beneficial to the consumer), cutting out the middle man is only a good idea if the middle man isn't providing a beneficial service. In this case, greater access to information is the service, and I think we probably do want that to be available. By taking away the commissions, you take away the possibility for comparison right across the market.

Re:Not really (2)

contrapunctus (907549) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740678)

maybe airlines don't want to compete who is cheaper by 1 dollar. only one dollar decides which airline wins your money (top of the list). so i'm guessing they want to be profitable but they can't be with all these brokers pitting airlines against each other in one place.

i'm not picking sides, i just want to show the other side.

Re:Not really (4, Insightful)

MBCook (132727) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740706)

You're got good points, but there are so many ads about price comparison it seems like there's a great chance American is just shooting themselves in the foot with this one. I haven't flown in years, and it wouldn't occur to me to go to an airline's site unless I knew they were the only ones who served the route or I had just heard about how incredible they were from someone I trusted.

I totally understand the quality argument. Midwest Express is supposed to be quite nice in the areas they fly. On the other hand, I remember flying on some airlines in the 90s that aren't around anymore that were just horrible.

If American thinks its quality is so much better, let them show it. Why not partner with Expedia to add "Air Experience" rating next to each price, where the ratings are based on passenger and secret shopper testing. That way you could see that American is charging $200 (with a 4 star rating) and Discount-O-Jet is charging $175 (with a 1.5 star rating) and make your choice. It would also give Expedia something to promote over the competition.

Of course, that would be a 'put up or shut up' move, and if American isn't as good as they want everyone to think they are, it could really backfire.

Side note: Remember travel agents? There used to be people, in offices, that you went to to book airplane tickets. Only they could see the prices. They used to be everywhere. In the past 15 years, it's a job that has completely disappeared. I get the feeling AA wants to go back to that world, where they could schmooze the agents to get more customers.

Wasn't this already posted... (1, Offtopic)

stillnotelf (1476907) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740228)

Wasn't this already posted as Comcast versus Netflix? Maybe we'll get lucky and all the big megacorps will end up at each other's throats for once, instead of at the consumers'...

On the bright side... (4, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740232)

I sense the emergence of some job openings for programmers and software engineers skilled in the art of swiftly building, and iterating as needed, scraper agents to aggregate numerical and geographic data from multiple multi-step forms driven websites...

Re:On the bright side... (1)

salmonz (697297) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740264)

No need. US Airways and Southwest seem to be the cheapest these days.

Re:On the bright side... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34740290)

I guess you have not heard about Low-Cost Airlines [wikimedia.org].
 
The service is shit, but for a student wanting to travel cheap, its awesome!

Re:On the bright side... (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740666)

You get what you pay for. I'd rather not fly on a plane serviced and staffed by overworked underpaid people who only work there because they're not good enough to be hired by the "real" airlines, and face all the usual unpleasant and inconvenient problems that people on low-cost airlines face. Not when it's a case of saving a couple of quid by wasting half a day in an airport, or even sitting in a plane waiting on the tarmac.

Go figure. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34740292)

US Air and Southwest are the only two airlines that have not regularly fucked up my travel.

(Continental hasn't either, but they're now part of United, and no longer count. There's American, but I've only flown them once. Not enough data - I mean, I once, believe it or not, had a flight on United go smoothly. Once.)

They're all bad (4, Insightful)

sjbe (173966) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740334)

US Air and Southwest are the only two airlines that have not regularly fucked up my travel.

Give them time and I promise that will change. I've flown quite a bit on pretty much any US carrier you care to mention and they're all pretty much equally crappy. If you haven't had bad luck with one of them I applaud your good fortune.

Re:They're all bad (4, Informative)

gonz (13914) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740438)

Really? Did you try Virgin America? Their planes are new, with stylish white plastic and black leather interior, with disco color lighting. They have a Linux-based entertainment system with free games and movies, seat-to-seat chat, and a shopping-cart style electronic ordering system for food/drinks. To celebrate the holiday, the internet was free for all of December. And the price is comparable to shitty airlines like Delta and US Air. Virgin America kicks ass.

Re:They're all bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34740798)

Alas. Virgin America doesn't fly SJC-GSO.

(Actually, not much really does.)

Re:They're all bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34740452)

Next time try one of these Foreign Airlines - Singapore Airlines, Emirates, British Airlines. The service is top class and even Economy Class on these airlines are a heaven compared to American Carriers.

Re:They're all bad (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740792)

This is a reasonable approach when one of these airlines serves both your origin and destination and the price is +/-10% ... but you're not going to be able to fly Singapore airlines if you're doing Atlanta - Minneapolis for example.

Re:Go figure. (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740512)

American Airlines was my first experience sitting on a tarmac for five hours (at Boston's Logan Airport)... BEFORE taking off. Like if you are not going to take off right away, why put us on board, fucktards. A trip to Calgary that should have been at maximum five hours with the other airlines I normally flew on (even changing planes in Toronto or Chicago), took almost twelve with these idiots. Worse, American had no music on board... no movies... no newspapers... no magazines... other than what others brought on themselves. American has the least comfortable seats and less service than anyone I've ever seen with the exception of Delta, who suck shit too. I have never flown on American since (and stopped flying Delta after my one no leg room knee bruised on the seat in front of me flight). Not once in at least a hundred thousand miles of air travel since (granted I stopped flying mostly about a year after that... I had enough). I have never had that experience before or since. And that was twelve years ago. American can go fuck themselves... right behind Delta. Bitter? Hell yeah.

Re:Go figure. (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740694)

Like if you are not going to take off right away, why put us on board, fucktards.

Because they need that gate space for the next load of unfortunates.

Re:Go figure. (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740802)

Yeah, a lot of times it isn't the airline that's at fault in this kind of situation. I've been lucky enough to avoid 5 hours on the tarmac, but I've done 2 plenty of times, and it's pretty much always been due to apron traffic control or air traffic control giving the poor pilot (and the 80 people sitting on the plane) the fuck-around.

Re:Go figure. (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740962)

I think there is also money involved. They get charged a fee if they want to unload passengers and then reload them. The airline will know pretty quick if there is a long wait involved, but don't want to pay the gate fees if they don't have to, and will screw their customers over that fee. I really wish they had legislated the traveler's bill of rights like they were going to.

Re:On the bright side... (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740576)

No need. US Airways and Southwest seem to be the cheapest these days.

Let me know how that works for you the next time you want to fly to Buenos Aires or one of the many other destinations served by AA.

Re:On the bright side... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34740630)

US Airways does fly to Buenos Aires cheaper than American Airlines in some situations.

Re:On the bright side... (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740470)

and I can see job openings for lawyers skilled in the art of claiming website copyright violations :)

Re:On the bright side... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740532)

I would be perversely curious to see what tactics they would use in the attempt to evade the precedent of Feist v. Rural...

Re:On the bright side... (2)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740582)

one thing I know is that there are lots of insurance 'supermarket' sites in the UK. They used to screenscrape but now hook into insurers systems in return for a cut. However, there's one insurer that advertises that "you will never find them on comparison websites" (its Directline) and uses this as a selling point to say they're cheaper because they cut out the middleman.

I don't know how they do it, but they're not on those comparison sites.

Similarly, there was a bit of a kerfuffle when one bank decided to let its customers handle their accounts on other bank sites by screenscraping. I'm not entirely sure what happened there, but they no longer offer it.

Re:On the bright side... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740644)

My understanding is that(unlike the US where, in the case noted above, the Supreme Court ruled that 'creativity' was an essential quality, without which something could not fall under the scope of the constitution's authorization of copyright law), the UK is, at least to some degree, a 'sweat of one's brow' jurisdiction, where the difficulty and labor of compiling a work, even if purely mechanistic and uncreative, can make it copyright-protectable.

It could also just be that, while scraping works well on people who don't know or don't care, it is an area where the defender likely has the advantage(particularly for 'legitimate' operations, where tactics like using a cloud of compromised hosts in residential IP blocks to conceal your activity isn't really an option. All but the dullest admins can probably figure out something amusing to do with that 100Mb/s stream of requests from a single host in a known competitor's IP block... Particularly for something like banking or insurance, if you want to offer the service, you have to be right nearly all the time. If the target is fucking with you, that can be difficult.

Re:On the bright side... (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740484)

This isn't about merely presenting the fares - This is about actually booking airline tickets, including upsales and seat selections, complete with integration to inventories and loads. For that, you need more than a screen-scraping 'fare compare' application...

Re:On the bright side... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34740508)

Not sure why this was marked as funny. I think he was being perfectly serious.

Think about what people are buying now, data. It's the ascii letters in a certain grouping laid out in a left to right orientation. News, research information, documents, all of it aside from multimedia.

It's just text wrapped in increasingly larger layers of stuff like xml,html,etc...

If data is what is up for sale and all the data is available free on the internet under a bunch of layers of trash, doesn't it make sense that someone who can extract the raw data from these free waterhoses can sell said information and software to extract that information?

Once people realize they can get the exact same information without all the trash (minimalism movement?) they will stop visiting sites that bombard them with constant ads.

And before people say "well the trash makes it pretty and easier to organize" i would argue that people who know wtf they are doing can easily format raw data with a few tabs.

More is not always better.

Pure data no longer has a place for ads.

Don't take The Epoch Times too seriously (4, Funny)

Rix (54095) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740248)

It's the propaganda wing of the Falun Gong cult.

Re:Don't take The Epoch Times too seriously (1)

dkesh (23048) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740384)

So long as you ignore the articles that have anything to do with China or Falun Gong, I actually find their news pretty good. At least their bias is right on their sleeve and about a subject I don't really care about.

Re:Don't take The Epoch Times too seriously (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34740442)

"their bias is right" way to immediately make it obvious you're a member of their insane cult. They believe the earth has been destroyed seven times and that.. shockingly.. the end is coming again!

Unimaginative and pitiful.

Re:Don't take The Epoch Times too seriously (1)

dkesh (23048) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740522)

Not sure if English isn't your first language, but "right on their sleeve" is an idiom. It doesn't mean correct; it means "out in the open". That is to say, I wasn't saying they were correct, merely that their bias is obvious and open.

If you happen to know who they are, sure (1)

Rix (54095) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740664)

But most people won't, and it doesn't say anywhere prominently on their site that they're a sectarian organization, like, say, The Christian Science Monitor.

The Epoch Times has some good content (2)

notthedroids (928539) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740952)

Actually I've found their articles to be insightful. They have real stories on China that don't get covered elsewhere, especially on the inner workings of the communist party.

As for "cult," that's what the communist party calls Falun Gong :-), so check your sources. I haven't seen any evidence that term is accurate: charge money (no), keep a membership list (no), coercive (no). The Falun Gong has been subject to a massively brutal persecution -- kudos to them for enduring the CCP and without violence. People can believe what they want, doesn't make them less deserving of human rights last time I checked.

Expedia eats up profit margins for the hotels (3, Informative)

Harald Paulsen (621759) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740252)

According to a hotel manager I know expedia wanted 1/3 commision on hotel rooms.

Sure, he appreciated the extra business, but at the same time it was a major cut in their profit margin.

And expedia (and other hotel booking services) now wield so much power that it's hard for hotels to say now. More so for hotels that are not part of a chain that can afford to say no.

Re:Expedia eats up profit margins for the hotels (2)

cgenman (325138) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740316)

While I can understand the concern, what are the advertising budgets for hotels now vs operating budgets? I know that in software projects spending 2x the development budget on advertising is normal. If the hotel is spending 1/2 as much on customer acquisitions as they do on product, giving 1/3rd to Expedia to funnel customers your way might make sense.

Re:Expedia eats up profit margins for the hotels (1)

outsider007 (115534) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740732)

That guy was just working you for a tip. He's booking a room when he otherwise wouldn't be so the commish is just advertising expense.

Re:Expedia eats up profit margins for the hotels (5, Interesting)

jelizondo (183861) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740828)

From one who spent 25+ years on hotel management in different places (USA, Mexico, Grand Cayman, Netherland Antilles, etc.) the "normal" commission earned by a bookie, be it a Wholesaler (Tour Operator), Retailer (Travel Agency) or Booking Engine, is 30%.

Some hotels limit that to 12-15% for certain markets in order to remain competitive, but generally, one third of the rack rate is the norm. That is why you should insist in getting a discount on rack rate, no matter how you book it. As we say in the industry, no one pays rack, except the foolish or desperate.

On the other hand, if your hotel shows less than 30% of Sales as GOP, you're doing something wrong...

Re:Expedia eats up profit margins for the hotels (1)

grapeape (137008) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740844)

Umm if expedia was responsible for the "extra business" that implies that they are rooms that would otherwise have gone empty, thus any profit margin was more than they were going to have. I do think its funny that once something like expedia, hotels.com, orbitz, etc shows a moderate level of success businesses involved tend to try and dismiss them as unncessary and completely forget the empty seats and rooms that came before.

Try your brick and motar travel agent (4, Informative)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740268)

You may be surprised, but in certain cases going to your local travel agent can get you a lower price. If they don't, compare what they are offering you and be sure to let them know you can get it cheaper online. A real-life travel agent can reduce their commission, while a web site won't.

Re:Try your brick and motar travel agent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34740370)

Or book directly on Airlines' Website (where there is no commission involved).

Re:Try your brick and motar travel agent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34740640)

But his goal was to get you a _lower_ price.
Their website might not have commission, but it sure does have a huge markup.

Re:Try your brick and motar travel agent (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740816)

It may or may not, depending on how the airline is currently trying to balance revenue, load factor, etc. IME many of the airlines run crazy seat sales every now and again, but unfortunately they're not consistent.

Re:Try your brick and motar travel agent (1)

am 2k (217885) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740628)

Last time I tried this, the travel agent added 20% commission to the ticket price for that ten minute phone call.

Re:Try your brick and motar travel agent (2)

Lulfas (1140109) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740642)

In reference to airline tickets, there really isn't any commission to talk about, for travel agents anyways. The thing with them is the extras; hotel rooms, cruises, all-inclusives, etc. It is a matter of building a relationship with you. Usually if a travel agent is finding a cheaper deal on an airline ticket it is using an odd fare class. Source: Grandmother owns a travel agency.

Re:Try your brick and motar travel agent (2)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740658)

You may be surprised, but in certain cases going to your local travel agent can get you a lower price.

So can booking from the "right" country. I am off to Canadia for two weeks for work. Flights proposed by company from Canadian end $US350. **Same** flights booked by me from US end $US200. I have seen that sort of price discrepancy many times before on both US domestic and other foreign cariers. With that sort of raping ^h^h^h^h^h personal service I am always amazed that airlines are still in business.

Re:Try your brick and motar travel agent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34740904)

The last couple of times I've tried travel agents they've been a joke. When I told the last one that I could find the same (or better) prices with 15 minutes of internet searching I was told they didn't appreciate being used to price shop and how would they be reimbursed for the time they spent trying to help me get a good deal. They just don't get it or they do and are just preying on people that don't know about or aren't savvy enough to use the 'net.

Re:Try your brick and motar travel agent (3, Insightful)

ftobin (48814) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740972)

Seriously, has this really ever worked for you? If a brick and mortar site can offer a cheaper price, how come they aren't publishing their price online via some method (perhaps not Orbitz, but something similar). When you've entered a travel agent or other brick and mortar site, you're in a world where it becomes difficult to price-compare. There is little incentive for them to have low prices once they control your environment.

It's rare, very rare, when I can find a cheaper price for anything at a brick and mortar site.

Same old same old. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34740272)

> Microsoft: 'We plan to work with ITA to create a new, easier way for users to find better flight information online.'

Translation: Once we have scraped all information and techniques from ITA we will implement our own way of doing this and block ITA from a market that is rightfully ours.

Re:Same old same old. (0)

salmonz (697297) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740282)

Microsoft always tries to replicate something and does a piss poor job at it.

Re:Same old same old. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34740364)

Yeah, I heard they once tried to replicate a functional secure graphical user interface & operating system but couldn't and vomited up Windows instead.

Re:Same old same old. (1)

TheUni (1007895) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740298)

You might want to read that sentence again.

Re:Same old same old. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34740564)

Yeah I think it was Google who said that.

And nothing of value was lost (5, Informative)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740320)

It's funny that this story comes out now, as I was just considering changing my sig to "Have a pleasant, comfortable flight - or fly American Airlines." I'm really considering starting a blog about how BAD american Airlines has become.

I just flew on American Friday night from Honolulu to Chicago; 45 minutes out of Hawaii, the captain turned the "Fasten Seats Belts" light back on - at the first excuse for a mild bump - and then left it on uninterrupted for the next 7.5+ HOURS - in smooth. clear air - all the way until we landed - 36 hours later, and my feet and ankles are STILL swollen. I had noticed on the way out that American seemed to have developed this policy of keeping everybody fastened in at all times, but the ride home confirmed that in spades. American CLEARLY has developed a policy to keep you seated at all times, your personal comfort and blood clots be damned. I also noticed that they've changed the "...and we suggest you keep your seat belt fastened while seated..." part of the stdrap.h to "...we REQUIRE you to keep your seat belt fastened while seated...". Fuck you, you're just cattle (who has already paid your money) at the other end of a toggle switch. And we have "federal regulations require you to obey us" on our side.

It's clear to me that they've changed the policy both as a convenience to the flight attendants and as a sop to their cowardly lawyers in case some passenger bumps their knee during a flight and decides to sue.

On they way out, it cost $25 per checked bag, and one, which was over 50lbs (52.7 to be exact), cost an ADDITIONAL $50 over that.

Of course, there's no free food anymore, but they'll SELL you a chicken sandwich for $10, or a can of Pringles for $4.50. What I found interesting was that they don't take cash anymore - just credit/debit cards - I guess that "...all debts, public and private..." printed on the money doesn't mean anything if you're an airline.

All in all, flying American recently is the worst (modulo TSA related fun, which is a different rant) in-air experience I've had in the last 35 years, and that includes the flight from Nairobi to London on Air India - which was about as bad as you would expect.

Re:And nothing of value was lost (1, Insightful)

jonwil (467024) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740386)

The "all debts public and private" line on US currency doesn't apply since the purchase of food from American Airlines is not a debt.

If your power company refused to take cash for payment of your power bill, that would be considered a debt and the relavent law about legal tender would apply. But not in this case.

Re:And nothing of value was lost (3, Informative)

Compholio (770966) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740446)

The "all debts public and private" line on US currency doesn't apply since the purchase of food from American Airlines is not a debt.

It is if they render goods or services before being paid - which they do. I've always seen them give people their items before taking the person's card.

Re:And nothing of value was lost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34740602)

The "all debts public and private" line on US currency doesn't apply since the purchase of food from American Airlines is not a debt.

It is if they render goods or services before being paid - which they do. I've always seen them give people their items before taking the person's card.

No, that would only work if you eat (or otherwise unpack and use) the goods before paying.

Re:And nothing of value was lost (3, Insightful)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740480)

No, it doesn't apply because there's no legal requirement that a business accepts US dollars as payment. It's a legally recognized method of debt resolution, not a legally required method.

Re:And nothing of value was lost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34740916)

True, a business can accept anything they like in payment, even bear skins. However, if you already have the service/goods unpaid, you always have the option to pay in cash, even if the contract says otherwise. A judge would NOT force you to find bear skins for payment, in fact, I bet he wouldn't even suggest it, he'd just give you a monetary amount to pay.

And there's no such thing as something you can't value in dollars, because if that were the case, the IRS would fix the problem mighty fast!

Re:And nothing of value was lost (2)

Low Ranked Craig (1327799) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740444)

I just get up and go anyway - I've never had an attendant say anything to me heading to the head when the fasten seatbelt light is on.

Re:And nothing of value was lost (3, Insightful)

trampel (464001) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740472)

Is this really specific to American Airlines?

I noticed on a recent transatlantic Delta flight that the fasten seatbelts lights were on all the time, but nobody seemed to care and the flight attendants certainly didn't enforce it. Or, are you saying that in the 7.5h on your flight nobody went to the restroom.

The baggage fees and nickling&diming for food are indefensible, but it seems they are standard practice in the airline industry these days.

I'd love to see an airline that treats their passengers better, but AFAIK all the major U.S. carriers are equally unfriendly.

Re:And nothing of value was lost (1)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740888)

No it's not specific to AA. I've flown SW, KLM-Delta(and delta before the merger), JetBlue, AirTran all in the last 2 years and they've all done the same thing.

But if you want to experience unfriendly? Try air canada, they've managed to exceed in the "we're fucking you in the ass. AND YOU WILL LIKE IT!" method of dealing with people. No shock as to why they're losing business to WestJet.

Re:And nothing of value was lost (1)

mjwx (966435) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740910)

The baggage fees and nickling&diming for food are indefensible, but it seems they are standard practice in the US airline industry these days.

There, fixed that for you.

This seems to be an issue with US airlines only. Even QANTAS/BA treats people better then that (and I dont have kind things to say about QANTAS's service). From my city I can fly Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, Malaysian Air Services, Cathay Pacific or Emirates, three of those are consistently in the worlds top 5 airlines. They don't really cost more then QANTAS and have top service. Even in the Low Cost Carrier class, there's Air Asia who really are the worlds best LC airline. Food is reasonable, especially if you pre book. Seats are a little small but it's often half the price of premium carriers.

Out here in Australia's most backwards cities if you pay premium carrier prices (A$700-1000 to most of SE Asia) you get premium service, free meal, free drinks, entertainment system OR you can choose from a variety of low cost carriers (A$300-600) if you'd rather go without.

Re:And nothing of value was lost (5, Insightful)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740520)

I had the exact same experience -- on a flight from SFO to HNL, the fasten seatbelt light was off for less than an hour on the entire flight.

Once someone got up to use the bathroom while the flight attendants had just started serving beverages. She firmly told him "There's a reason the fasten seat belt light is on sir, return to your seat!". However, an hour later the fasten seatbelt light was still on and, someone in front of me hit the flight attendant call button to ask for a beverage. The same flight attendant said "Come on back to the galley to pick it up".

They need to have 2 fasten seatbelt lights, one that means "We think you should sit down and buckle in because there might be turbulence" and one that means "Turbulence is highly likely all passengers and flight attendants must remain seated".

I've never understood why passengers have to sit down when the fasten seat belt light is on, but often flight attendants are pushing a 200 pound cart with a couple pots of scalding hot coffee on top of it down the aisles.

Re:And nothing of value was lost (4, Insightful)

SpecBear (769433) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740552)

Yeah, I hate American Airlines. The final straw for me was when I was checking baggage, and it took longer than getting a new car registration.

Then it struck me: I was waiting in line wishing that American Airlines could be as quick, competent, and customer friendly as my local DMV office.

I haven't flown with them since.

Re:And nothing of value was lost (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34740698)

I guess that "...all debts, public and private..." printed on the money doesn't mean anything if you're an airline.

To be fair, that is why they don't give you the food until you pay. It so you do not have a debt with them, and thus they have no legal obligation to accept cash.

If someone or some company claims you OWE them money, only then must they accept cash, and if they do not accept your cash for a debt, then the debt is considered settled, so you shouldn't complain anyway.

In the end, paying with a credit card is better anyway. The next day you can do a charge back on all the extra charges, both food and luggage.

Re:And nothing of value was lost (1)

billeeto (981533) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740812)

American is to airlines as Purina is to fine dining. And that's charitable. Go Expedia!!

Re:And nothing of value was lost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34740870)

Most of your complaints are things you should have known about beforehand if you had spent any effort at all. What's more, most of the things you're complaining about are similar on most other airlines. I've been flying Delta lately because it's the cheapest, quickest way and yet they too have $25 checked bags and overage fees (though their limit is slightly higher), I've never managed to have them even offer a charged meal (their meal times appear to be quite flexible in when they won't serve) -- however their drink fees are only payable by credit card. At least on my most recent flight on American, the flight attendant gave me a 2-for-1 on the booze.

Re:And nothing of value was lost (5, Insightful)

mjwx (966435) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740878)

we REQUIRE you to keep your seat belt fastened while seated

No shit. You're in an oversized cigar tube travelling at 900 KM/h and you don't think that's prudent? Your safety be damned.

All airlines require you to keep your seatbelt fastened whilst seated. They'd rather you didn't move about the cabin unnecessarily so that you:
1. Dont hurt yourself when the plane hits a bit of turbulence.
2. Do not interfere with the operation of the flight staff.
3. Do not be a nuisance to other passengers.

You've never flown over the equator have you? I live in Australia so that means I do it quite a bit to get to other countries and every time we cross that line separating the hemisphere there is turbulence, often quiet violent turbulence and every 4 out of 5 flights someone who is stupid enough to be sitting without their seatbelt gets hurt (normally there is an announcement on the PA asking if there is a doctor on board).

It's not some giant conspiracy to make you uncomfortable, it's for your own safety and the COMFORT OF OTHER PASSENGERS. I cant stress this enough, I absolutely hate it when some idiot lets their crotchspawn run up and down the aisle or when some smelly retard has his hairy armpit slung over my chair so he can chin wag with his equally smelly mate.

Planes are not luxury cruse liners, they do not have roomy cabins, they are designed to get me to where I want to go within a matter of hours, for that time I can compress myself (not a small person) into a seat and be fucking courteous to other passengers. So please for the sake of everyone, sit down, shut up and put your belt on.

Does anyone pay these people? (2)

robbak (775424) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740322)

I just thought that everybody used these services (WebJet in australia) to research flights and prices, and then went to the airline's own sites to book? You might on a rare occasion find the flight you chose booked out in the few seconds it took you to switch sites, but, if that happened, you'd just go back and choose a second flight.

Re:Does anyone pay these people? (1)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740362)

The last couple of times I've tried using webjet their website has been malfunctioning when I've tried to book, despite me having used them in the past. Which is kind of a pain as their service for finding international flights used to be good.

The domestic prices on Qantas/VB websites weren't any different...

Re:Does anyone pay these people? (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740462)

Why would you do this when you can book right on Expedia or Orbitz for the same price as booking direct on the airline's site?

Re:Does anyone pay these people? (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740650)

The price is the same, so most people won't bother.

I sometimes do just to remove a middle man from any disputes/issues that might arise, one less place for a screw up.

Re:Does anyone pay these people? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34740868)

I started doing this when the only resolution for a rain delay was trying again the next day (overseas connection). If you book orbitz/expedia, they are responsible for rebooking, if you book Delta, AA, etc, they are responsible which means they can put you on a later flight rather than the same flight on a later date.

Inevitable Battle (3, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740404)

For as long as I can remember (practically since deregulation) the airlines' approach has been to maximize profits through increased pricing complexity - or "efficient yield management" as they are more likely to label it. The core reason for the existence of airline fare search engines is to reduce pricing complexity. Therefore it seems obvious that the airlines would do everything they can to kill the search engines - but they can only go so far because they more they squeeze, the more consumer demand they create for the search engines. Where is equilibrium? I dunno. I would like for it to be at the point where the airlines quit the pricing games and try to compete on service instead, but that would be too easy.

Welcome to the Airline Industry Expedia / Orbitz (5, Informative)

citylife (202595) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740414)

Airlines long ago eliminated commissions for in-person travel agents because they had the market power and how were 1000's of mom and pop agents going to fight the airlines? Fearing dis-intermediation, the airlines continued to pay Expedia / Orbitz and the reservations systems such as Worldspan commission for deal flow but now the airlines have the market power with their own sites.

Its a hard dose of reality for the online sites, who don't offer much functionality above what you can get on Southwest.com. My mom is a travel agent- and while she is computer challenged she can run command line commands into Worldspan faster than I can login to Orbitz. I've never understood why someone would spend hours online finding a site when a travel agent can do it all for you for almost nothing. My mother selected 3 of the 4 hotels for my honeymoon, the other coming from the NY times travel section. Guess which one was the dump with paper thin walls and crappy beds?

Re:Welcome to the Airline Industry Expedia / Orbit (5, Funny)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740518)

My mother selected 3 of the 4 hotels for my honeymoon, the other coming from the NY times travel section. Guess which one was the dump with paper thin walls and crappy beds?

Yeah, my mom can be a practical joker like that too ;)

Re:Welcome to the Airline Industry Expedia / Orbit (3, Insightful)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740790)

I've never understood why someone would spend hours online finding a site when a travel agent can do it all for you for almost nothing.

Probably because travel agents don't like to work from my home office at 3am.

Online booking is generally great, but is not fool (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34740430)

I booked a trip to Phoenix last Christmas on a ride share flight (USAir flight booked as a United flight via Expedia). I was not able to confirm my reservation on either United's or USAir's websites. I called USAir, they told me to call United. United customer service wanted to charge me $20 per ticket (!) for the privilege of helping me, which I declined. I called Expedia, who assured me everything was fine. When I got to the airport, I was informed that my flight had changed and had left 2 hours prior. No one bothered to tell me, despite having multiple means of contact and my good faith effort to check in prior to the flight. Expedia denied all responsibility (there was at least one more irate family in line with us that had the same experience).

To USAir's credit, they stepped up and got us to our destination in time for Christmas. I don't know if this was just a giant fuck-up, or whether United/Expedia were just pissing on each other with me in the middle, but I won't use Expedia ever again.

Re:Online booking is generally great, but is not f (1)

brusk (135896) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740718)

Happened to me once on Orbitz, too: the flight changed to an earlier time and they and the airline neglected to tell me (but I noticed the discrepancy when printing boarding passes the day before so it was fine).

I wonder why MS says NO! (4, Informative)

rrossman2 (844318) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740434)

Just happened to look at ITA Software's website.. and look at their customer list:
www.itasoftware.com/about/customers.html
I do believe I see Bing as one of the customers :)

Re:I wonder why MS says NO! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34740436)

Wow. How insightful of you. Thanks for the info.

No, really. Thanks. Yeah.

Re:I wonder why MS says NO! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34740734)

Wow. How funny of you. Thanks for the laugh.

No, really. Thanks. Yeah.

Expedia wants to set rates. (2)

GayBliss (544986) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740460)

Expedia has been trying hard for several years to become a travel retailer that determines the pricing themselves, and they want travel companies (hotels, airlines, and rental cars) to give them wholesale pricing. Right now, like any travel agent, they get a percentage of the rate that is normally determined by the travel company, but they would like to be able to set whatever rate they think they can get and give the hotel/airline/car company a flat wholesale rate. This would give Expedia a lot of control over rates, and they could make a lot more profit because they could take everything above the negotiated rate, instead of the fixed percentage. Luckily the travel companies see that this model would destroy their own business and have resisted.

Naturally the travel companies would prefer that people book through their own websites, because they don't have to pay the commission, which is typically around 10% of the price.

Re:Expedia wants to set rates. (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740720)

Naturally the travel companies would prefer that people book through their own websites, because they don't have to pay the commission, which is typically around 10% of the price.

Also, if people book through the travel companies' websites, they can condition you to think that company A has the best price for you in a particular class, so there is no need to check anybody else. Every time I see the Southwest Airlines ads about how you can only buy tickets on Southwest's website where they say, "You don't want to have to check a bunch of different sites to find the best price", I think that they are actually forcing me to do that by not allowing me to get their tickets from Expedia, etc..

LOL Microsoft and Antitrust (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34740544)

I guess Google just needs to join the "freedom to innovate" group at Microsoft, after all as Steve Ballmer said in his article in the wall street journal [microsoft.com]:

But we never dreamed that competing vigorously and innovating rapidly would make us a target for lawsuits inspired by our competitors. While we'd rather just build great software, Microsoft is standing up for a fundamental principle on which the entire high-technology industry is built--the freedom to innovate and create competitive new products that better meet our customers' needs.

Fashion caps, fashion handbags, fashion life (1)

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Pricing complexities (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740776)

If you book online with American Airlines, make sure to add $50 per checked bag. I bought an AA flight because it was cheaper, only to find out it was actually $100 more expensive ($50 checked bag, both ways). It would be nice if it asked you this when comparing tickets.

Re:Pricing complexities (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740874)

You probably carry too much stuff. Most people should be able to live for weeks out of a carry-on and a back pack. I did, and no, there were never any complaints about my smell or laughter when I wore the same outfit.

If my ticket costs less because you are paying $100 more for baggage, I say, "Bring it On"!

This is a flat out lie from the airlines (1)

magsk (1316183) | more than 3 years ago | (#34740804)

I travel alot, and wish the ticket prices where cheaper if booked directly from the airlines (american in particular) . But they are NOT they are the same price regardless if booked through travelocity, expedia, aa.com or where have you. If AA was trying to save money or cared about the consumer then their direct website price would be lower by whatever fee it is the travel sites are getting paid. But it is not.
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