TripAdvisor, Hipmunk and a nearly a dozen more travel sites can no longer display Delta Air Lines’ flight scehdules and fares, as the carrier has cut off their access to its data, reports The Wall Street Journal.
Delta said it “reserves the right to determine who it does business with, and where and how its information is displayed.” The company added that it would “continue partnering with a limited, but responsive and adaptable group of online retailers.”
Obviously, some users of fare comparison sites will lose out — but so will Delta and any other airline that follows suit. Whether these carriers like it or not, fare comparison and travel planning sites make a lot of sense for a wide range of users. Restricting access to flight data won’t do airlines much good.
Carrier agnostic third-party sites empower users with more information than a single airline’s site can and allows them to make better choices when booking flights.
Airlines could argue that these sites charge them fees to sell tickets and of course, to allow them to advertise deals and promotions. However, even when listed on fare aggregators, carriers have the option to sell tickets only through their own sites.
Most tech startups have embraced transparency — but that doesn’t mean that organizations in every domain need to follow suit.
As it stands, there isn’t much for Delta to gain by locking up its data. But that should be its own choice to make. The company could want to try new marketing and sales techniques through its own channels, or maintain a certain image by only appearing on travel sites it deems fit to partner with — whether that’s because of the third parties’ brand equity or ability to deliver volumes in sales.
The WSJ’s article also says that the affected sites account for only a small percentage of all flight searches, so Delta may not be losing much at all. Still, whichever way the tide of online travel planning turns, airlines should be allowed to choose whether to swim with or against the current.