UCL School of Management is delighted to welcome Anita Rao, Chicago Booth, to host a research seminar discussing ‘Value of Search Aggregators’.
Airlines are increasingly questioning the value of search aggregators, preferring to bypass online ticket aggregators and sell directly to consumers. However, airlines need aggregators to gain access to a wider audience. Similarly, aggregators need the presence of all airlines to make them comprehensive and useful to consumers. We investigate who benefits most in the airline-aggregator relationship. Specifically, we ask what would happen to airline and aggregator site visits and purchases in the absence of a comprehensive aggregator. We first explore consumers’ search patterns on Southwest: an airline that has never been part of any aggregator. In a descriptive exercise, we find that consumers who book on Southwest are least likely to visit aggregator sites. Second, we use the 2011 American dispute with Orbitz as an exogenous event, which led to American fares no longer being displayed on Orbitz for five months. The dispute creates a clear shift in the choice set available to consumers visiting Orbitz, with the timing being driven entirely by the contract renegotiation deadline, which creates a quasi-experimental setting. We use this dispute to identify who was hurt the most – the aggregator or the airline - in the months following the dispute. Our findings indicate that the aggregator loses the most when it is not comprehensive.