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Posts from May 2024.

This week’s Update features a variety of stories, including interviews with two of the online travel industries major influencers, Ariane Goren of Expedia and Drew Pinto of Marriott.  I hope you enjoy. 

    • American Airlines’ War with Tour Operators Continues.  Responding to American Airlines’ newly (on May 13) enacted policies on cancellations and re-bookings, Tauck advised travel advisors this past week that it had stopped booking travel with American Airlines and other Oneworld members (including British Airways, Japan Airlines and Qantas).  The policies in question impose a $50 cancellation fee on cancellations beyond the 24-hour booking window and a $50 cancellation / re-booking (aka churn) fee on two or more churns.  
    • Southwest’s Distribution Evolution Continues – Flights Will Now Appear on Google Flights.  It was just last week that we featured a store detailing Southwest’s new partnership with Chase Travel, the first ever by Southwest to feature its flights on a third-party consumer facing booking platform.  Now, Southwest is moving to Google.  As of Wednesday last week, Southwest’s flights are now featured alongside other airlines on Google Flights.  Flights must still be booked directly with Southwest on the airline’s website.
    • Lotte Card Is the Latest Financial Institution to Launch a Travel Platform.  Joining the likes of Chase and Capital One, Korean card issuer, Lotte Card (9.35 million cardholders), has announced the launch of a new travel portal offering cardholders the opportunity to search and book accommodations, flights and car rentals.  The new platform will be powered by Hopper’s B2B division, Hopper Technology Solutions (HTS).
    • Hoteliers and Real Estate Information Firm Seek Dismissal of Anti-Trust Case.  In one of several algorithmic price-fixing cases targeting the hospitality industry, the defendants (six hoteliers and CoStar) moved last week to dismiss the claims, arguing that there was no evidence that the defendants had conspired to fix prices through the hoteliers’ use of CoStar’s (STR) long-used benchmarking tools.  As we noted in last week’s Update, a similar price-fixing case against Las Vegas casino / hotel operators was recently dismissed.’s “gatekeeper” designation under the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) and artificial intelligence’s increasing influence on online travel garnered much of the attention this past week.  Enjoy.

    • Chase Scores Major Win with Southwest Airlines.  Want to get away?  Chase Travel has a solution.  Chase Travel is the only online platform (not competing card companies or the major OTAs) to offer Southwest flights to online leisure bookers.  For years, Southwest subscribed to a direct channel only distribution strategy, but lately that strategy has been changing – albeit in small increments.  Does Southwest’s arrangement with Chase signal even greater future availability of Southwest flights on public online channels?  Only time will tell. 
    • Both Google and Expedia Announce New AI-Powered Trip Planning Tools.  At this past week’s annual Google developer conference, Google announced new and/or improved AI-powered trip planning tools for both Google Gemini  (the paid version of Google’s AI chatbot) and traditional Google search (through AI Overviews).  AI Overviews will be available to all Google search users this week, while the new Gemini tool will be available this summer.  Expedia also introduced AI-powered tools this past week at its annual Expedia Explore event.  New CEO, Ariane Gorin, speaking at her first Expedia Explore event, introduced Romie, Expedia’s new AI travel assistant that can help travelers with planning and booking travel.  What role will paid display advertising, key words and commissions play in these new tools?  Google hasn’t said.  When asked about the effect of commission levels on Romie, Expedia, CTO Rathi Murthy, said only that commissions don’t play a role – today.  Time for everyone to start thinking more broadly about search . . . and appropriate limitations.     
    • Is a Gatekeeper.  Now what?  In today’s Update, we provide a number of perspectives on the EU Commission’s recent designation of as a “gatekeeper” under the Digital Markets Act (DMA) for its online intermediation services.  With the EU Commission’s announcement, now has 6 months to comply with the DMA’s applicable requirements.  In 6 months, must submit a written compliance report detailing how it complies with the DMA requirements.   Other DMA obligations, including those associated with any merger or acquisition that might wish to make, apply immediately.  In the months ahead, hoteliers should expect to hear from as to how it intends to comply with the DMA’s requirements and how compliance will affect their existing distribution agreements.  Stay tuned. 

Our weekly Online Travel Update for the week is below. And for those mothers out there, we hope you had a great Mother’s Day! This week's highlights:

    • Las Vegas Hotels Earn Dismissal of Algorithmic Price-Fixing Case. One of the first of now several algorithmic pricing-fixing class action suits brought against members of the lodging industry was dismissed last week by a Nevada federal district court. Defendants in the case included Cendyn (relating to the co-defendants’ use of Cendyn’s revenue management tools GuestRev and GroupRev), Blackstone, Treasure Island, Caesars and Wynn. In dismissing the case, the federal court judge held that the claimants “have not plausibly alleged a tacit agreement between Defendants or a restraint on trade in part because Hotel Defendants are not required to and often do not accept the pricing recommendations generated by Cendyn’s products.” Click here for a complete copy of the court’s order dismissing the case.

    • Is Airbnb Considering a Subscription Model? In a recent Skift interview, Airbnb CEO, Brian Chesky, noted that he favored (and had been considering) a paid membership or subscription program versus traditional points-based loyalty programs. Loyalty and the possibility of an Airbnb loyalty program have been talked about for years – dating back to comments by Chesky in 2016. The key question for many is whether Airbnb and its still unique product offering would even benefit from offering such a program, which can be an expensive endeavor.

    • Federal Investigation of Airlines’ Loyalty Programs and Co-Branded Credit Cards Continues. A few weeks ago, we featured a story detailing an ongoing investigation by the US Department of Transportation and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau into airline loyalty programs and relatedly, their co-branded credit cards. A hearing on the issue was held this past Thursday and notably, none of the major airlines (nor their trade association) participated (though their loyalty programs were the subject of much of the discussion). Discounts carriers Sprint, Allegiant and Breeze participated in the hearing. Topics covered during Thursday’s hearing included the role airline loyalty programs may play in preventing competition in the market and the effect of airlines’ practice of devaluing miles.

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About the Editor

Greg Duff founded and chairs Foster Garvey’s national Hospitality, Travel & Tourism group. His practice largely focuses on operations-oriented matters faced by hospitality industry members, including sales and marketing, distribution and e-commerce, procurement and technology. Greg also serves as counsel and legal advisor to many of the hospitality industry’s associations and trade groups, including AH&LA, HFTP and HSMAI.

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