Orbitz for Business said it will provide an offline method of booking American Airlines flights if the carrier makes good on its threat to inhibit Orbitz Worldwide websites from issuing its tickets.
Orbitz told its corporate customers that it will provide a dedicated 800 number for a call center staffed with customer service personnel trained to handle reservations and questions about American and to accommodate their corporate policies.
A hearing to determine whether American can pull the plug on Orbitz, originally slated for the first week of December, was rescheduled for Dec. 10 and 13.
Travelport is suing the carrier, saying a withdrawal from Orbitz would constitute a breach of contract. Travelport owns 48% of Orbitz, and the online agency is its largest customer, providing about 14% of its GDS transactions.
Travelport won a temporary restraining order that prevents American Airlines from terminating its agreement with Orbitz Worldwide until the hearing on a preliminary injunction is held.
American told Orbitz on Nov. 1 that it would no longer allow Orbitz to issue American tickets effective Dec. 1.
The dispute centers on American's direct-connect strategy. The carrier has said it will distribute its ancillary services only to on- and offline agencies that connect directly with American via its XML technology.
Meanwhile, the American Society of Travel Agents and a number of agency groups have questioned whether American's plan to use debit memos to collect surcharges is a violation of the IATA agency agreement.
American told travel agents outside the U.S. and the Caribbean that it will slap surcharges onto bookings made through Travelport's Galileo and Worldspan GDSs beginning Dec. 13.
American said the surcharges, which range from $2 to a hefty $21.50 depending on the system and the country, will cover the hike in segment fees that Travelport imposed on American bookings in those countries.
"There is a possibility that the unilateral collection of these fees using IATA's Bank Settlement Plans via automated debit memos (ADMs) may violate the IATA agency agreement," ASTA said in an alert to members.
"IATA Resolution 850 states that the airlines can use the BSP system to collect debits related to the 'issuance and use of Standard Traffic Documents.' Yet AA's use of the BSP system to forcibly collect 'booking' related surcharges may be outside the scope of the agency agreement."ASTA said it is investigating the issue.
The European Travel Agents and Tour Operators Associations, the Catalan Association of Travel Agencies (Asociación Catalana de Agencias de Viajes) in Spain and the Institute of Travel & Meetings in the U.K. also questioned whether the plan would violate IATA rules.
ITM, meanwhile, urged the warring parties to "re-engage."
"We are concerned that the result of the AA/Travelport negotiations will be increased costs to business travel programs and/or increased complexity and an undermining of streamlined managed programmes," ITM said in a statement.
"We are also concerned that others in the U.K. and throughout Europe might follow a direct connect approach, resulting in an unproductive policy of channel discrimination and content fragmentation."