Although it’s too early to know if this is a significant trend, American Airlines decision to pull all their Kayak.com listings – reported here by TechCrunch – should be cause for great concern among the online flight ticking agencies like Orbitz, Kayak, Farecast, and more.
The power of services like Kayak lies in the ability to consolidate most of a buyers options on a single screen. Even quality competitors like OneTime.com suffer from having too many screens in the mix, diminishing your ability to find the best fares. As Airlines drop these services users will find it harder to offer the best pricing, and we will be forced back into the “old web” nightmare of screening dozens of sites to find the best pricing and availability.
Hotels leaving these services could doom them to failure. Hotels.com is not all that popular among hotels but many feel the volume provided by Hotels.com makes it an essential part of their marketing plan. However many online shoppers do not realize that their booking often includes fees as high as 20% and sometimes more to the online service. Currently this generally comes out of the hotel’s profits, but as systems improve and streamline hotels are looking to book directly and avoid those middle man fees. Consolidators like Kayak and Hotels.com should be very aware that their prosperity hinges on a strong and positive balance of participation by consumers and providers. AA is throwing a small wrench into the cogs but there are many more to come.