American Airlines Trying to Send Site Traffic Soaring

If you’re having a hard time finding tickets for a flight on American, it’s because the airline is butting heads with online ticketing sites Expedia and Orbitz.

According to the Seattle Times, there’s a contract dispute between American Airlines and these websites that could turn the tables and make it so that “ticket-selling companies would pay American to supply the inventory,” a situation that was once a dream to American’s CEO Gerard Arpey, the story says.

Customers are being asked to go to AA.com, travel agents, and other sites for ticket information and purchase. For many, the ability to compare costs on sites like Expedia has made them the first place to look for tickets. If American isn’t on the list when customers do their search, they might not care and American loses out.

But if American manages to get fliers used to going to their site directly to make travel plans, they could start selling seat upgrades and other options, the story adds, which could be great for AA’s business. Beyond the airline industry, it’s an interesting case study in changing online consumer behavior.

PRNewser has seen an e-mail that was sent to AAdvantage members, signed by the loyalty program’s president Maya Leibman. It says, in part:

While there is much misinformation circulating on these matters, rest assured that tickets for travel on American Airlines and American Eagle — including all international and domestic classes of service — are widely available through a number of outlets, including American’s own website, AA.com, which features our Lowest Fare Guarantee. Tickets, fares and schedules are also available through American’s reservations agents, thousands of travel agencies in locations worldwide, other online travel agencies such as Priceline.com, and travel search engines such as Kayak.com. For more information, please visit AA.com.

The airline also explains the situation on its website. If more traffic is coming to the site,  it may soon be time for a site upgrade. From a comms perspective, what else should American do to drive traffic to its site?