US carrier Jetblue announced that it will end ticket sales through more than ten online travel agencies (OTAs) as part of a new programme designed to cut costs across the airline. Jetblue says this is the first phase of a new distribution strategy, which will focus on direct bookings through its website and select third parties.
The airline claims the cost structure through third-party channels “makes it challenging to offer a full range of fares”. It says that by ending its relationship with lower-yield OTAs, it can support its “structural cost efforts” and ensure its customers “get the best experience possible since direct bookings deliver benefits to customers” such as no third-party fees, special offers, loyalty points and seat upgrades. The carrier also offers customers a $100 (£76) credit if they find the same ticket for a lower fare anywhere other than its own website.
Jetblue’s news comes after several agencies criticised airlines for 'limiting competition' through consolidation and controlling information published on GDSs and third-party search engines. However, Jetblue said in a statement that it supports comparison shopping, pointing out that several aggregator sites offer customers a selection of fares and redirects them to airlines’ sites for booking.
According to Skift, Marty St George, executive VP of commercial and planning at Jetblue, said in an interview that the airline didn’t feel these lower-yield OTAs they’ve cut ties with were profitable for them. He also hinted that more sites may follow and that US carriers may eventually pick up the European trend of adding fees onto bookings made through third-part channels.