When AirTran Airways (NYSE:AAI) and Travelocity parent Sabre Holdings (NYSE:TSG) announced that they had brokered a five-year partnership yesterday, you could have been forgiven a double take. Low-price carriers? Travel portals? They get along about as well as lighter fluid and a charcoal briquette.

There's a reason why you're not likely to find a discounter like JetBlue (NASDAQ:JBLU) or Southwest (NYSE:LUV) on conventional price-comparison travel sites like Travelocity, Expedia (NASDAQ:EXPE), and Cendant's (NYSE:CD) Orbitz. The legacy carriers don't like it. The low-fare airlines have no problem being found by thrifty passengers with their own standalone sites. It's no surprise that many of these travel sites were initially bankrolled by traditional airlines.

However, this pairing is as interesting as it is symbiotic, because each company will help fill each other's gaps. Online travel pioneer Sabre will beef up AirTran's own website with vacation package offerings, while AirTran's inventory on Sabre's network will help consumers approach Sabre as a more complete aggregator of travel options.

That's important, especially now that many of the legacy carriers are struggling financially. It's not that Travelocity needs AirTran to help reduce its exposure to any particular carrier, but it certainly doesn't hurt. AirTran's website can also use an upgrade, and it will get just that thanks to Sabre. Southwest has been selling vacation packages for a long time, and JetBlue allows Web customers to book hotels and car rentals.

Yes, it's a win-win deal. Lighter fluid. Charcoal briquette. It makes one tasty barbecue.

JetBlue has been recommended in Motley Fool Stock Advisor . Cendant is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz enjoys traveling when he can. He does not own shares in any company mentioned in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.