Orbitz for Business is telling corporate customers that they would be able to book American Airlines flights offline if the airline removes its fares from Orbitz Worldwide.
The showdown between American Airlines and Travelport over the airline's contracts with Travelport and Orbitz Worldwide initially had been scheduled to take place in hearings Dec. 1 and Dec. 2 in a Chicago courtroom, but now appears to have been rescheduled for Dec. 9 and Dec. 10.
In mid-November, Travelport won a temporary restraining order barring American from pulling its inventory off Orbitz, a move that the airline originally indicated could take place Dec. 1 with the termination of the American-Orbitz Worldwide contract.
In a Nov. 29 email to Orbitz for Business customers, the corporate travel agency informed clients that if the restraining order gets tossed and it has to implement a contingency plaan, then travelers would be able to call a toll-free number to speak with customer service representatives to handle inquiries and book American Airlines flights.
Such offline bookings usually are subject to a higher transaction fee than online bookings, but Orbitz for Business informed clients that they would only be subject to the lower online transaction fees if the contingency plan is implemented.
Corporate travelers booking American flights on the phone through this "alternative booking process" would face "a few potential challenges and limitations," Orbitz for Business said, including being required to provide full credit card information and TSA information [gender and birth date] and the American Airlines itinerary would not appear in the My Trips tool.
The contingency plan is a work in progress, and Orbitz for Business told clients that it would subsequently provide another customer communication outlining how the agency would handle changes, exchanges and reservations on hold.
"While we are in the process of finalizing a contingency plan, our team remains hopeful this situation will have a positive outcome that benefits all parties," Orbitz for Business wrote to clients. "Our primary focus continues to be the well being of your travelers and program, and resolving this situation in a timely, effective manner."
While Orbitz for Business detailed its contingency plan in an email to clients, Orbitz Worldwide spokesman Brian Hoyt declined to provide any information regarding contingency plans for Orbitz.com and sister brand CheapTickets if the temporary restraining order is lifted and consumers can't book American Airlines flights on these websites.
Hoyt said Orbitz Worldwide is continuing to work with American to resolve the current dispute, but can't provide further information to the public about material aspects of OWW's business.
The dispute between American and Travelport-Orbitz Worldwide revolves around the airline's efforts to lower its distribution costs as it seeks to require Orbitz to tie into AA Direct Connect for distribution.
Travelport argues that if American terminates it contract with Orbitz Worldwide, then it would violate the American-Travelport full-content agreement.
American and Travelport have initiated legal proceedings over the issues in Chicago and Dallas/Fort Worth.
In the interim, American has announced upcoming plans to charge travel agencies surcharges for American bookings made through Travelport's GDSs, namely Galileo and Worldspan.
For the time being, with the temporary restraining order still in place, American Airlines flights remain available on Orbitz.com, CheapTickets and Orbitz for Business.
All interested parties are now focused on the Dec. 9 and Dec. 10 legal proceedings.