American sues Kayak.com, Kayak responds
Posted by George Hobica on Thursday, September 4, 2008
In case you missed it, American Airlines and Kayak.com are no longer friends. The short of it is that Kayak, when they list fare search results, sometimes send you directly to the airline's web site, but sometimes they offer a choice of booking with Cheaptickets.com or Orbitz.com. Of course, you'll pay $6 or $7 extra when you book with a third party (it's a convenience fee of sorts).
But what we don't understand is why wouldn't you go directly to Orbitz or Cheaptickets? Why go to Kayak and then to Orbitz when it's really the same fare?
Seems like American didn't get it either, and insisted that Kayak only list American as a vendor. As a result, Kayak pulled American's fares. AA, in its original suit, claims that Kayak was continuing to list its fares, but we don't see any evidence of that. AA wants Kayak to stop using its name, logo, and flight information.
Of course the reason that Kayak includes those other sites is because that's how they make money. They also make money by checking-by-default a pop up window to Priceline.com. (In our opinion, that's a bit naughty: we'll check the box ourselves, thanks, if we want to search Priceline.)
Kayak claims (PDF format) that they stopped listing AA because of "American's demand for incomplete, and therefore biased, search results." Frankly, we don't see how not sending customers to a fare on Orbitz or Cheaptickets that's $6 or $7 higher is incomplete or biased. In Kayak's answer to AA's law suit, it claims that "American Airlnes published false statements concerning Kayak's economic interests" and that AA "intentionally interfered with Kayak's former and prospective customers...thereby causing Kayak to suffer actual damage."
This is great stuff! Basically, it's all about money and, in our opinion, not so much about the user experience on Kayak. When Kayak first began, we thought the whole idea was to send users directly to the airlines, distinguishing the site from Travelocity, Orbitz, and so on. But perhaps there was not enough revenue in that model so they changed the process?
For a while, Kayak was listing fares on Southwest as well, but Southwest didn't like that, and now they just have a link to Southwest's site when you search for fares on routes served by Southwest. Clearly, the absence of American's fares on Kayak makes the site less useful.
And as one consumer commented on this issue:
"AA is not objecting to Kayak or Sidestep from selling tickets on AA, it's the manner in which they are selling them. Based on the law suit Kayak is not selling the tickets based on the agreement in which they signed on to sell AA tickets. They are taking you, the consumer, to third party sites to sell the tickets and their agreement is to sell them from AA.com. By sending people to these third party sites AA is incurring additional fees to sell you the ticket which in turns makes ticket prices higher verses their own ticketing channel. From what I can tell Kayak was getting a preferred kick back from these thrid party sites to run the tickets through them and not AA.
So before you start blasting, read up on the subject before you make yourself look like a bumbling, overly emitional consumer.
I think AA is in the right on this one for a change..."
We would have to agree.
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