JetBlue has said it’s well within its rights to decide who it does and doesn’t want to work with.
JetBlue Airways is facing a new lawsuit, which accuses the company of preventing travel aggregators from displaying its ticket fares alongside its competitors’.
According to Reuters, the complaint was filed by Fareportal Holdings, Inc., which operates CheapOair and OneTravel. The company claims that JetBlue seeks to prevent travel agents from accessing its fares, effectively forcing consumers to purchase tickets from its own site at higher prices than they might find through a booking platform.
JetBlue’s unusual strategy, says Fareportal Holdings, prevents prospective customers from doing “comparison shopping.” While consumers may not see JetBlue fares if they’re using an engine such as CheapOair, they will not see any fares other than JetBlue’s on the carrier’s own website.
This allegedly helps JetBlue boost fare prices on some of its most popular and profitable routes, which include flights to and from Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Florida, and Puerto Rico.
“Amidst the turbulence of the global pandemic, JetBlue is quietly pursuing a scheme to make it harder for American consumers to save money when they book air travel,” the lawsuit states. “JetBlue’s goal is simple: to make it more difficult for consumers to comparison shop when they want to fly.”
Interestingly, Fareportal says that, since JetBlue has received federal subsidies, it does not have to endeavor to compete with its rivals.
The lawsuit notes, for instance, that JetBlue has received more than $1.8 billion in taxpayer support, as well as Department of Treasury loans meant for coronavirus mitigation. With that cash in hand, Fareportal alleges, JetBlue does not suffer from the business it loses by withholding prices from travel agents.
“JetBlue is using COVID-relief handouts from American taxpayers to take American consumers for a ride,” the lawsuit said, “[making] it more difficult if not impossible for travelers to determine the airline that offers the best combination of price and service.”
Reuters observes that Fareportal may be speaking from an isolated position: JetBlue does, in fact, allow other travel sites access to its fares. Expedia and Priceline, both subsidiaries of Booking Holdings Inc., display JetBlue fares, although Fareportal claims the airline will soon terminate its contracts with those platforms, too.
“We have healthy relationships with hundreds of other carriers,” Fareportal Chief Legal Officer Fred Stein said in an interview. “A business relationship is all we’re looking for.”
JetBlue, notes Reuters, terminated its relationship with Fareportal last year.
In a statement to Simple Flying, JetBlue defended its position, asserting that it is well within its rights to choose with which platforms it wishes to cooperate.
“The allegations in the complaint filed by Fareportal are frivolous and wholly without merit. It is a common industry practice for airlines to choose where to sell their products,” JetBlue said in a statement. “We are currently one of several major airlines not selling via Fareportal’s platforms.
“JetBlue guarantees that customers will always find the lowest JetBlue fare on jetblue.com, and currently, over 10 aggregators and OTA sites offer customers the ability to compare JetBlue fares. JetBlue is recognized globally as a unique airline committed to competitive fares and superior service.”