I had to chuckle (to avoid crying) reading this article about the squabbles between Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia. At first, you’ll be sympathetic to the claims that Orbitz is competing unfairly by obtaining lower prices from its airline owners than are available to Travelocity and Expedia. But keep reading, and it becomes obvious that all three are would-be monopolists who have no interest in consumers, except to figure out the most effective ways to pick our pockets. Think you’re being offered the lowest fares when you do a search? Think again. All of them skew the results in favor of the airlines that pay the most generous commissions, or that pay for higher rankings, or shut out airlines that don’t play ball. Travelocity is an outgrowth of Sabre, which charged huge fees to the airlines for its reservation system while it could, and bribed travel agents to steer passengers to favored airlines instead of finding the lowest fares. When United tried to cut commissions, Expedia punished United recently by moving its flights to a different results page when you did a search, even if the United flights were cheapest or most convenient.
It’s worth noting that the article is representative of the true state of affairs – in that it doesn’t mention the 30,000 independent travel agencies in the country until the last paragraph, as an afterthought to explain what tiny portion of the travel business might still be available after the big boys carve up the easy, lucrative fees and commissions among themselves.