When American Airlines revealed in mid-January that it reached a direct-connect agreement with Priceline, the airline indicated that "Priceline.com expects to begin issuing American Airlines tickets through the link in the near future."
Now, it turns out, the direct-connect actually was established sometime in the fourth quarter of 2010 -- well before the official announcement.
And, Pricline began issuing tickets through the American Airlines direct-connect in late January, says Brian Ek, Priceline spokesman.
In a 10-K filing with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, Priceline acknowledges that it established a direct-connect with American Airlines in 2010, and Ek says that occurred during the fourth quarter.
Ek says "the information our customers get through the direct connect is the same as they would get through the GDS."
And, that may be true today.
But, Ryan Mikolasik, an American Airlines spokesman, says "Priceline has access to our full content through direct connect (fares, schedules, as well as ancilliary products, including the Your Choice Boarding and Flexibility package we launched last year)."
So, while Priceline may not be offering its customers the American Airlines Your Choice product, it would seem to be available through the direct connect and perhaps the OTA could may offer it to customers in the future.
With Orbitz, Expedia and Travelocity opposed to the American Airlines' direct-connect initiative, Priceline's access to Your Choice could be a differentiator from its OTA rivals as well as from the global distribution systems, which also don't have Your Choice.
In its 10-K filing, Priceline cautioned that "any additional migration toward direct connections would reduce the compensation we receive from GDSs."
Priceline.com uses Travelport and Sabre for global distribution services in the U.S., and Amadeus plays a role internationally.
So, with a major online travel agency using American Airlines direct connect, the question arises -- is the genie out of the bottle?
Priceline doesn't sell a lot of airline tickets when you measure them against the global company's hotel business, but if Priceline sees some competitive advantage to the direct tie with American Airlines, might that put some pressure on others to hop on board?