American Airlines today added Sabre Holdings Corp., to the federal antitrust lawsuit originally filed in April 2011 against Travelport, LLC. The amended lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, seeks to stop exclusionary, anti-consumer and anti-competitive business practices of the defendants and recover monetary damages that American has incurred as a result of these harmful actions.
Both the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice and the United States Department of Transportation have, in the past, recognized that GDSs exercise significant market power over airlines. In addition, American recently received a Civil Investigative Demand from the U.S. Department of Justice, which is investigating certain practices by global distribution systems , such as Sabre and Travelport, and American intends to cooperate with that investigation.
American Airlines lawsuit claims that Sabre and Travelport, which combined control over 90 percent of bookings made by U.S. based travel agencies and dominate an essential link to travel agents and many consumers, continue to engage in anti-competitive conduct to protect their market position from new competition by alternative technologies that are both less expensive and more capable, including aggressively suppressing the ability of travel agents to seek alternative methods to book tickets directly with airlines using direct connections with airlines.
The illegal actions of Sabre and Travelport have harmed consumers and travel agents alike in a number of ways, including suppressing innovation that would enable travel agents to better serve their customers. The suit also alleges GDS actions have hurt airline passengers by forcing airlines to seek to charge higher fares to recoup the high, supracompetitive GDS fees. In addition to requesting injunctive relief from the defendants’ actions, American is seeking recovery of unspecified monetary damages.
American’s decision to include Sabre to the antitrust lawsuit comes after American attempted for several months to resolve disputes over distribution of the airline’s fares and schedules, as American sought commercially reasonable terms for distribution through the Sabre GDS, but Sabre has been unresponsive to those requests. American intends to honor its existing contractual obligations with Sabre, and separately with Travelport, throughout the proceedings of this action and expects it will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.