United Says it’s Moving Ahead to Pull Fares from Expedia this Fall
Airlines sell their own fares directly to travelers, of course, but many also hand off discounted tickets to online travel agencies to sell. It’s a tricky situation, and United’s relationship with Expedia has turned ugly.
In a clear game of hardball to secure a better contract, United announced earlier this year that it would pull its fares from Expedia on Sept. 30, 2019, when the current contract expires. Expedia responded by suing the Chicago-based airline, but a judge rejected the bid to require United to continue listing fares on Expedia.com, saying it was premature.
The two sides have spent months posturing to win in contract negotiations. Now just over two months from the drop-dead date, United executives said Wednesday that it’s still prepared to drop its fares from Expedia this fall.
“We have had a number of conversations with Expedia in the past month or so, and we’ve yet to be able to conclude a way to get around some of these issues. At this point, we don’t have a deal,” United’s chief commercial officer Andrew Nocella said during a quarterly earnings call. “So we are preparing to move on as we previously said. We’ll see where we go.”
Airlines pay OTAs like Expedia and Orbitz. It helps ensure they can fill planes, and can often help passengers score a better deal on airfare. But the rate airlines pay these re-sellers is a sticking point that has caused friction for years.
Carriers would much rather sell tickets on their own – it makes them more money. Delta also recently hinted that it could one day stop listing fares on OTAs like Expedia, Kayak, and Orbitz, but was noncommittal about that prospect.
There’s still plenty of time for United and Expedia to make a deal. United is rattling its sabers to get Expedia back to the bargaining table.
But the disappearance of United from Expedia would be a double whammy. Because Expedia now runs the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, it would likely mean that those fares would no longer be bookable using Chase points from cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve. That’s one of the best ways to book flight deals using points and miles, so it would be a major blow.
As it stands, Expedia is still selling United fares for travel beyond Sept. 30. As it stands, don’t book United flights through Expedia for travel after the cutoff date – you could run into troubles if this relationship isn’t repaired.
United has made it clear it’s ready to drop its fares from Expedia if it must. Time is running out before this unfortunate contract situation hurts some travelers.
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