Further Sabre rattling in American dispute

Sabre has confirmed it has downgraded American Airlines flights and fares on retailers’ GDS displays in a move the carrier denounced as “anti-competitive”.

American Airlines must also pay higher fees for appearing on Sabre, with the increased charges certain to be passed on to agents and customers.

A similar move in the related spat between American and GDS-owner Travelport has already lead to additional charges on bookings through Galileo and Worldspan, leaving Amadeus as the only GDS currently unaffected.

Sabre Travel Network senior vice-president Chris Kroeger spelled out details after a brief statement issued in the US on Wednesday stated only that the corporation was taking unspecified “actions” against American Airlines “to protect its interests and those of its customers”.

Kroeger said: “We’ve changed the way we display American Airlines schedules and fares, lowering their position in the order.

“We’ve eliminated significant discounts American Airlines enjoys on booking fees that were given in return for a commitment to full fares, since their action has been counter to that. And we’ve served notice of termination of our existing agreement.”

However, Kroeger insisted: “Our goal is to have productive discussions with American Airlines. We are prepared to move forward.”

American Airlines hinted at possible legal action in response, but declined to comment further. In a statement, the carrier said: “Sabre’s actions, which include biasing its shopping displays, are anti-consumer, anti-competitive and harmful to subscribing agents. The actions are discriminatory and patently inconsistent with its [Sabre’s] contractual obligations.”

The carrier is already embroiled in a US legal case brought by Travelport. The row centres on American’s determination to drive retail traffic away from GDSs and through an electronic link of its own called Direct Connect.

UK travel management association the GTMC has accused American of “trying to circumvent intermediaries”.

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