American Airlines made an idiotic move in pulling out of Orbitz. As consumers, we are lazy, preferring one stop shopping. Having to visit multiple airlines in order to piece our travel together is painful. It is why Expedia, Orbitz and sites like Kayak have been the go-to destinations for initial travel research and in many cases, purchase. Google will now change that, as you will have one place to go that pulls all fight information across all carriers together for you. From there you can decide which carrier and fare you want to purchase. Google has no interest in being an intermediary in ticket sales, but it is challenging the airlines to get their act together. Initially Google’s search is best with direct flights to and from major cities as it does not recommend connections or track many flights from smaller airports.
What American Airlines did was short sighted, and I’ll even argue that this type of move should have been illegal as it does not allow the consumer to have access to all options unless they are aware of a specific carrier or deal. If all the airlines chose the route of American Airlines, everyone loses. The marketplace, the consumer and most of all, carriers like American Airlines.
Not only will Google (possibly followed by Bing) now become the defacto place to start your travel search, but they airlines will now be forced to place a much higher Adwords buy on Google in the hopes that the consumer will be directed towards their brand after their initial search when it comes time to purchase.
The airlines dropped the ball and now they are paying the price. Google is challenging them to get it together or (literally) to pay an even higher price, end of story.