Court postpones American Airlines antitrust battle

Court postpones American Airlines antitrust battle

The start of the US antitrust lawsuit between American Airlines and Sabre Travel Network has been put back from June to August this year following a request by the carrier.

A Texas judge postponed the start date to August 6, thereby also extending the existing full-content agreement between the airline and global distribution system (GDS). American and Sabre agreed last year to maintain their content agreement until 14 days after completion of the lawsuit.

The carrier requested a three-month postponement of the hearing after its parent AMR entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November.

Sabre parent Sabre Holdings and American, the transatlantic partner of British Airways, have filed competing antitrust claims in the Texas State Court in the latest stage of a lengthy battle over the way air fares are distributed to retailers.

American has sought to bypass GDSs and cut the cost of distribution by encouraging retailers to use its own, web-based Direct Connect system. It sued Travelport - owner of GDSs Worldspan and Galileo - on antitrust grounds last April and added similar claims against Sabre in June.

The carrier accuses the GDSs of monopolising the distribution of fare and flight data to retailers. Sabre’s counter-suit alleges American sought to develop a monopoly by forcing retailers to use Direct Connect.

Sabre expressed disappointment at the later start date, saying this “again delays long-term certainty”. A Sabre spokeswoman said: “It is unfortunate American has chosen a path of litigation. We continue to call on the airline to work with us to reach a deal.”

In a statement, American Airlines said: “This is just a brief extension, but it is important to give American breathing room to focus on its successful restructuring efforts.

“American has been open to entering into a fair, new agreement with Sabre through negotiations. [But] we have not been able to reach such a resolution.”

The carrier accused Sabre of “serious misconduct in violation of the antitrust laws” and added: “We intend to pursue our losses, absent an agreed resolution.”

Separately, Sabre has asked the US Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan to lift an automatic stay on its litigation against American - a consequence of the Chapter 11 filing.



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