Skift Take

Ticket pricing data appears to be a commodity in itself, as tech upgrades potentially limit access to fare availability — with travel agents complaining it impacts their ability to do their job effectively and leads to higher fares for consumers.

The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) claims that American Airlines has removed 40% of its fare inventory from distribution channels used by travel agents and travel management companies following the implementation of new systems with the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) New Distribution Capability (NDC) technology.

ASTA has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) accusing American Airlines of unfair trade practice, claiming it has caused “substantially higher air ticket prices for consumers and frustrated travel management companies.”

ASTA said the change in distribution has meant travel management companies are “unable to fulfill the duty of care owed to business travelers.”

American Airlines responded to Skift’s request for comment stating, “American has made huge investments to make travel agencies’ transition to NDC easier.” The airline claimed it was the “only carrier to connect its NDC content to all three global distribution systems – work that was done explicitly at the request of our travel agency partners.”

“While some travel agencies have not yet connected, we have not withheld any information that would discourage or prevent comparison shopping. All of our fares remain viewable over both NDC and traditional travel agency channels,” the airline further detailed in the statement.

In February this year, American Airlines announced it would be upgrading its systems in April to offer “three levels of differentiated content,” that can be accessed via:

1) American-owned channels – its direct website, aa.com.

2) American-owned and modern retailing channels, such as Expedia and Hopper.

3) Third-party technology, including the new NDC technology and American Airlines’ older established Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce and Transport (EDIFACT) used by travel agents and travel management companies. That is the technology that now reflects less fare inventory, according to the ASTA complaint.

American Airlines said in a statement issued in February that it would “sell differentiated content in new ways that benefit customers. Customers shopping via modern retailing channels will retain access to our best available third-party public channel content.”

ASTA said the complaint follows several private discussions between ASTA and representatives of both American Airlines and the DOT. Industry bodies such as the Travel Management Coalition, the Business Travel Association (UK), and FOLATUR have Joined ASTA in the complaint.

The filing, lodged with the DOT on July 31, calls for the DOT to use its statutory authority to urge the airline to “restore access to all fares in all channels and to undertake a comprehensive review of the current state of competition in the domestic airline industry.”

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