On August 1, Kayak stopped directing customers to tickets available on American Airlines’ website, AA.com. The move came in response to pressure from American, which asked Kayak to direct all American ticket searches to AA.com and suppress results from online travel agents. Instead, Kayak removed AA.com from its search results, meaning customers will only find American fares available through the online travel agents American was trying to bury.
On the surface, this sure doesn’t seem like a smart move for American. The airline is struggling through a rough year, having already introduced first checked bag to the traveler’s lexicon, and now comes across as a bully trying to control the marketplace. And by attempting to muscle around a metasearch site, the carrier also appears out of touch with its Internet-savvy consumer base, a base that apparently understands the modern air travel industry better than American does.
So here’s my memo to American: Airfare is getting more and more expensive; if you want people to fly with you, offer fair prices, but don’t try to manipulate the market. As Kayak put it, “We think this is a step backwards for consumers and we hope American changes its mind.” Apparently both sides are searching for a workable solution, but the only consumer-friendly outcome I can see is for American to drop its request and let Kayak do its thing.