Like to prowl the web for the cheapest airfares, no matter where you find them? Your choices just narrowed, at least for all JetBlue Airways’ flights. The budget airline has joined others such as Delta in dropping several online travel-booking websites, or aggregators. They are second- or third-tier metasearch engines that sell a “very small percentage” of the airline’s flights, the airline said.
JetBlue blames the economics of the situation. Air passengers who booked through the banished sites chose cheaper fares and spent less on add-ons such as premium seating or pet booking. “We looked at the cost structure and recognized that we had an intersection of relatively high-cost channel and some relatively low-value customers,” Marty St. George, JetBlue’s executive vice president for commercial and planning told Skift.
Sites no longer able to sell the airline’s tickets include SmartFares.com, FlightSearch.com, FlightNetwork.com, VacationExpress.com, FlyFar.ca and Vayama.com.
Like other airlines, JetBlue wants to avoid paying commissions to third-party sites for tickets sold, and instead hopes ticket buyers will gravitate to its own website—as Southwest Airlines has forced its customers to do exclusively for years.
St. George said his airline is considering further steps, and that one option is to assess fees on tickets not sold directly. That practice is trending in Europe. Lufthansa charges a $19 fee for tickets purchased through third-party agencies, and next month British Airways and Iberia Airlines will begin adding a $10.50 fee.
Similar bias against third-party aggregators has crept into the hotel space recently. “Hotels are not giving the aggregators as many good deals as they did in the past,” a former Priceline engineer told Wired earlier this year. “You might as well call Sheraton’s front desk.”
In 2016, Hilton Hotels Corporation guaranteed the lowest rate when booking on its own website, with the marketing slogan, “Stop Clicking Around.” More recently, the InterContinental Hotels Group stopped awarding rewards points to guests booking through aggregators.