Southwest and American Airlines Union Issues, Another Fight With Orbitz and Other Things I Find Interesting On Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Apologies for the lack of content over the past few days.  This whole one-handed typing thing is slowing me down more than I expected and a lot more than I want.  Here are some things I’ve been reading with interest recently:

Southwest Airlines is having union issues, which is a fairly rare occurrence for them.  If you’re only a casual observer of the airline industry, you might not even know they have unions.  The interesting thing here is that this group of employees still have a contract.  They’re negotiating for something better.  Certainly, that’s the primary purpose of a union.  But, Southwest employees already have a pretty good gig.

While we’re on the subject of unions, American Airlines is still having issues coming to agreement with the pilots union for their wholly owned subsidiary American Eagle Envoy.  This  isn’t a new dispute.  For quite a while now, American has said that they won’t place new, larger regional jets with Envoy if the pilots don’t agree to new contract terms, instead sending the planes (and jobs) elsewhere.  To date, it’s mostly been bluster as they’ve only moved out a very small number  of the new jets.  “No, really.  This time we REALLY mean we’re taking our ball and going home if you don’t agree to our demands.”

American has also been playing hardball with Orbitz again, yanking all their fares except for corporate contracts in an effort to win better terns with Orbitz going forward. I don’t view this as horrible news for me personally, nor for many seasoned travelers who can look for their fares elsewhere.  The casual traveler relies on Online Travel agencies (OTAs) to see all or most of the flights to their desired location in one place.  For me, I strongly prefer booking through an airline’s site.  I don’t generally try to book more than one airline on a ticket and I don’t really want to introduce any hassles into my booking process.

While there can be small incentives from OTAs to book through them, they really have grown quite small.  These might add up to something significant if you travel a lot and book all your travel through one OTA but the infrequent traveler is unlikely to see a meaningful financial windfall.  Learn to use a tool like Matrix and most of your Orbitz needs go away.

I’m also a fan of travel providers controlling their inventory.  Maybe it’s a vain hope, but if they’re more profitable because they’re not paying extra revenue to an OTA, maybe they won’t raise my ticket price quite so much (or reduce benefits, for that matter).

Today’s Irony Moment of The Day

I like the look of a possible new British Airways business class seat.  I didn’t love their current yin-yang seat on my trip home from Italy, but more on that when I can type with two hands.

Mommy Points has a good tip on how to get targeted for Hyatt’s recent promotion.

A United flight is diverted because two passengers got into a fight over reclining a seat, according to Scott Mayerowitz.  Maybe I was wrong about people being able to deal with phone calls on planes.

Can You Reverse A Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer?

Doctor’s appointment today to check out the broken wing. Probably still not allowed to type with two hands, but maybe…


  1. A bit surprised to hear you gong along with the theory that airlines not publishing their fares into a common comparison engine is somehow good for consumers. If it becomes so burdensome to figure out what the “good” fare is then you’ll never know if you’re actually getting the right price or not. That’s bad for consumers.

    1. It may not be good for all consumers, but the OTAs serve little purpose for me. If the net effect of the airlines making fares available on OTAs involves them passing that expense on to me, I don’t think that’s a winning proposition for me or many travelers who can use resources that don’t carry an implied cost, like Matrix.

      1. Matrix is fine for certain circumstances but is not comprehensive nor perfect. Just like all the other sites.

        And, at the end of the day, this is a lot bigger than just whether AA pushes fares into Orbitz and at what negotiated price. The future of airline inventory distribution is changing radically and consumers are set to lose. This sort of thing is the opening blow, not the end game.

        1. I don’t necessarily equate the airlines having more control over their inventory with customers losing. It’s certainly a possible outcome, maybe even a probable one. But, I’m not sure the current OTA structure is the right one. Brick and mortar travel agents outlived their usefulness for most folks. I still think there’s a new model to come that gives the airlines what they want as fare as fare control and still provides info to consumers. In the end, the airlines still need to sell and if removing their fares completely from the OTAs hurts them, they’ll have to take a different tact. I think I’m fine letting the free market figure it out.

          Besides, if the current model worked really well for consumers, I think the OTAs would be more profitable than they are. Maybe there are too many and they’re not run efficiently, but some of the recent results I can recall don’t indicate widespread consumer satisfaction to me.

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