ITM calls for talks to end American Airlines and Travelport clash

UK travel buyers’ group the ITM has weighed into the battle between American Airlines and global distribution system Travelport over add-on fees and access to fares, warning of “channel discrimination and content fragmentation”.

Travelport won a temporary restraining order against American Airlines in a US court on Friday, preventing the carrier from withdrawing its flights from US online retailer Orbitz – in which Travelport is the largest shareholder.

American Airlines had earlier announced it would end sales through Orbitz on December 1 as the carrier seeks to force the retailer to access services via its own Direct Connect channel rather than a Travelport GDS, which like other GDSs charges airlines for displaying their fares.

The Institute of Travel and Meetings called on both sides to “re-engage for the benefit of business travel buyers”.

In a notice to members, ITM chairman Jamie Hindhaugh said: “We are concerned that the result . . . will be increased costs and/or increased complexity [and] that others in the UK and throughout Europe might follow a direct connect approach, resulting in channel discrimination and content fragmentation.

“It is imperative we have all the content all the time in our chosen GDS. The industry should be working towards streamlining content access, not creating scenarios which result in increased fragmentation.”

The dispute has been rumbling for months as part of the wider struggle between airlines and GDSs over access to content and who pays for it, with Travelport the owner of GDSs Worldspan and Galileo.

Travelport sued the airline on November 5 after the latter issued notice it would pull off Orbitz, claiming a violation of obligations to provide full content. In a statement, the GDS said: “Travelport is taking a number of actions to defend travel agents and consumers.”

Following the court ruling, American Airlines said: “We are confident that once the court hears the full evidence, it will find our decision to terminate Orbitz is fully consistent with our contractual obligations.”

A follow-up court hearing is scheduled for December 3.


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