In response to an American Airlines antitrust lawsuit against Travelport and Orbitz, the Business Travel Coalition (BTC) released a statement saying the travel programs are simply pawns in the airline’s game, and the lawsuit is a symptom of a larger problem.
American filed suit against Orbitz and Travelport for discouraging travelers from using the airline’s direct booking pipeline, which it claims can lower costs and help travelers get more information about their flights. But BTC says the lawsuit does not do anything to help consumers get more information about their flights, as it is the airlines themselves that still insist on hidden fees.
The only answer, BTC says, is for the U.S. Department of Transportation to step in and require airlines to disclose all fees, such as checked baggage charges. As it currently stands, corporate pressure and influence has done nothing to persuade the airlines to provide this information to travel agencies, which means the consumers lose in the end.
The purpose of the online travel sites is to provide consumers with honest price comparisons of air fares from multiple airlines so that they can choose the best one. Critics of American’s direct pipeline argue that any implementation of it would only make it more difficult for the comparison process to work.
“…DOT is the last bastion of consumer protection and has existing authority through Section 41712 of the Federal Aviation Act to address unfair and deceptive practices by requiring full disclosure of fee data,” the BTC statement urged.
The market is not functioning properly, the statement explained, and years of lawsuits and counter suits will only exacerbate a situation that is already spinning out of control.