JetBlue Sued by Online Travel Agencies Over Anti-Consumer Move
Online travel agency Fareportal has sued JetBlue Airways under federal antitrust laws for an alleged “scheme” to block consumers from being able to comparison shop JetBlue’s fares with those of other airlines.
Fareportal, which operates the CheapOair and OneTravel websites, has a long-term collaborative partnerships with over 600 airlines globally. The suit contends that JetBlue is trying to raise fares on routes it dominates by making it difficult for consumers to shop on price.
s of Jan. 5, 2021, JetBlue has forced Fareportal to remove its flight and pricing information from the Fareportal websites including CheapOair, the largest flight-focused OTA. JetBlue previously blocked a dozen other OTAs from displaying JetBlue content to customers as part of “JetBlue’s strategy to turn back the clock” and “return to the old days, before OTAs, when airline content was hidden,” which made it difficult for travelers to compare services and fares.
The complaint goes on to detail that JetBlue will move to making higher profits from the ticket price increases by eliminating comparison shopping. The complaint states that JetBlue knows that its dominance in certain markets will force consumers to book through its website, with examples of markets in which the airline has a dominant presence including New York, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The lawsuit also claims that JetBlue is funding its anti-competitive strategy using COVID-19 relief funds by having “American taxpayers unwittingly fund its scheme to deprive them of the information they need to comparison shop.”
The suit further notes that “JetBlue is also prepared to suffer short-term losses because it is using taxpayer dollars to defray them” by “taking handouts from American taxpayers in the form of COVID relief. The Long Island City, New York-based carrier is already set to receive over $685 million in direct support from American taxpayers and up to $1.14 billion in loans from the U.S. Treasury under the CARES Act and is poised to receive even more.”