For some time now, the airlines have been fighting online travel sites like Orbitz, Travelocity and Kayak. According to Yahoo! Travel, only 40% of tickets today are bought directly from the airlines.
I’m not surprised. Whenever I check the airlines’ sites for flights, they’re almost always way more than the online travel sites. Naturally, as a price-conscious consumer, I buy my tickets from the travel sites, not the airlines. I’m guessing many of you do the same.
In an effort to combat this, the IATA is announcing individually tailored rates. Basically, you provide the airline with some personal information as well as travel information, including frequent-flyer numbers (if you have any), and the airline prices your ticket based on that.
Needless to say, the move will likely please some travelers (I’m assuming the frequent flyers who, I’m guessing, will get reduced rates). But it will likely turn off others (I’m assuming non-frequent flyers who, I’m guessing, won’t get good rates out of it), along with travelers who sense and dislike a Big Brother vibe and don’t want to share a load of personal info with the airlines just to buy a ticket.
AirfareWatchdog.com founder Greg Hobica told Yahoo! Travel that the airlines have been trying to get rid of the online travel sites for a while now, and this is just the latest attempt.
“It’s almost like Wile E. Coyote,” joked Hobica, likening it to the coyote’s repeated attempts to kill the Road Runner, to no avail.
Hobica said he thinks the move won’t affect the “vast majority” of travelers who don’t have frequent-flyer miles, according to Yahoo!. But it could make it more difficult to compare prices (the airlines’ special rates likely won’t show up on the online sites). It may also penalize customers who don’t want to share info and enable the airlines to use the personal info to set higher prices in some cases (i.e., higher rates for people living in posh postal codes).
The IATA, meanwhile, is saying the move is simply an attempt to provide better rates for loyal customers, which they can’t do through the travel sites.
“Forty years after the birth of the current distribution paradigm,” IATA executive Tony Tyler told Yahoo! “We have an opportunity for a revolution in airline retailing.”