Australian airline price search website Webjet today took the unprecedented step of disconnecting and deleting Delta Air Lines' fares from its Australian and New Zealand web site.
Travellers checking Delta's fares from Sydney to Los Angeles' LAX airport will need to look elsewhere -- either Delta's own website or other online travel agents like Travel.com.au or Expedia Australia.
Webjet’s Managing Director, David Clarke, said the move was retribution for Delta banning American price search websites -- including Webjet's US website -- from listing Delta fares.
"Our North American operation received without any sensible reason or appropriate notice, along with, as we understand many other OTA’s, a termination of our right to promote, display or ticket Delta in the North American market," Clarke said today.
"We indicated to Delta that if they pursued what we consider to be an unlawful process which may well be subject to court proceedings by us in North America, we would have no alternative but to discontinue the sale of Delta products from the Australian and New Zealand markets where we contribute substantial and growing revenue and where of course there is an intense hunger from Delta’s competitors for our traffic."
Clarke continued: "The particular galling component of Delta’s actions in North America is Delta has acknowledged Webjet has been fully compliant with all of Delta’s North American ticketing display and other regulatory processes and appears to have reached a view it can cherry pick our revenue production in markets where it suits or doesn’t suit."
"Well, that is just not going to happen."
Webjet said in a statement that it was considering taking legal action against Delta and making submissions to government regulators to reverse what it considers to be "a discriminatory, unfair and unjust decision by Delta."
Glenn Hauenstein, Delta executive vice president for network planning, revenue management, justified the move by saying he wanted Delta's own website to be "more like an Apple store" and that third-party travel websites are "more like Best Buy", an American big-box budget retailer.
Delta is the world's largest airline in terms of passengers carried each year.
Delta's decision to pull flights from US websites follows American Airlines' earlier move last December to withdraw fares from Orbitz. Travel booking giant Expedia also announced in January that it had been unable to negotiate acceptable terms with AA and was forced to stop offering AA fares.
American Airlines wants to push consumers to buy direct from its company website to improve profitability, and as a minimum is requiring travel agent websites to connect directly with AA rather than intermediary services like Galileo, Worldspan and Sabre.
American Airlines fares are still available via Kayak and Priceline in the US.
At present, no Australian airlines have signalled an intention to withdraw their fares from price comparison websites such as Webjet. However, with major international airlines such as Delta and AA blocking consumers from using price search sites, the era of websites where all fares can be compared might be coming to an end.