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American Airlines Stops Selling Tickets on Orbitz

Photo Courtesy - PRNewsFoto/ American Airlines(FORT WORTH, Texas) -- American Airlines is trying to reshape the way airline tickets are sold, pulling all its flights off the online booking site Orbitz.  The move comes less than a week after Delta pulled its tickets off three smaller travel sites: CheapOair, and One Travel.

Any tickets previously sold on these sites are still valid.

"The move does make things a bit more difficult for consumers in terms of comparison shopping, since they will have to remember to search American separately if using Orbitz," said Anne Banas, executive editor of the travel website SmarterTravel.  "However, my advice would be to use a meta-search engine like Bing Travel or Kayak that searches multiple sites -- including Orbitz and American -- at the same time."

The moves come just as Google is trying to buy the airfare search software company ITA for $700 million, an acquisition that is being reviewed by the Justice Department for possible anti-trust violations.

While ITA is not a household name, it has some of the most powerful airfare search technologies, often sold to third parties.  Google dominates the overall search market and has transformed areas -- think of Google shopping -- that it has entered.  Competitors say they fear that if Google buys ITA, it would control airfare searches and give preferential treatment to the highest-bidding advertiser.

So why would American and Delta make their tickets harder to find?  Money.  An airline has to pay a fee to any third-party site, such as Travelocity, Expedia or Orbitz, that sells a seat on one of its planes.  Those fees can be as high as $4 per flight segment, according to Robert Mann, an airline consultant and president of R.W. Mann & Company.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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