Competition for low airfares

low-cost-airfaresWith airlines imposing fees for things like checked bags, priority seating and access to airport lounges, finding a good fare is just the starting point. Ticket buyers then need to check multiple Web sites to figure out the best deal.

Now, even that process is on the verge of change, and the impetus is coming from various directions. The airlines are looking for a bigger role in how their products are sold. Google is seeking to establish a foothold in air travel search. And new technology companies, like Hipmunk and Vayant, want to offer yet more search options.

The biggest push to change online ticket buying is coming from American Airlines, which recently announced that it wanted to bypass the central reservation systems that now deliver fare information to online travel agents like Expedia and Orbitz, and instead deliver that information directly. Such a move would reduce the fees American pays to list its fares on travel agents’ sites and would give a boost to its bottom line, battered by years of falling fares.