Court dismisses American claims against GDSs

A US Federal Court judge has dismissed several counts of American Airlines’ anti-trust case against Travelport.

The technology company hailed the decision by the Texas court. However, American Airlines said the ruling vindicated its principal claims against Travelport and fellow global distribution service (GDS) company Sabre.

American, Travelport and Sabre have been embroiled in competing anti-trust claims stemming from the carrier’s attempt to drive bookings via its own direct connect link to its reservations system.

Travelport issued a statement saying the federal judge had dismissed all but one count of American Airlines’ anti-trust case.

The company said it was “pleased the court recognised the meritless nature of most of the claims brought by American and severely restricted the scope of American’s remaining claim”. 

The US District Court had “dismissed American’s claims that Travelport monopolises distribution to travel agencies; [that]Travelport entered into a conspiracy with travel agencies to monopolise distribution; [that] Travelport’s agreements with airlines and travel agencies unlawfully restrain trade; and [that] Travelport’s actions are illegal under Texas state law”.

However, the court has allowed a claim that the company “monopolises access to Travelport’s current travel agency subscriber base” to proceed.

Travelport said it would “continue to defend itself vigorously against this claim”. It added: “A similar claim brought against a competitor was recently rejected by a federal court in New York.”

However, a spokesman for American Airlines said: “The court is allowing American’s principal anti-trust claims to proceed and has rejected the defendants’ arguments on key legal issues.

“Most importantly, the court has held that American can proceed with its claims that Sabre has monopolised the market for provision of airline booking services to travel agents, and separate claims that Sabre and Travelport each unlawfully monopolised the market for the provision of airline booking services to their respective subscribers.

“The order permits American to raise additional anti-trust claims based on newly discovered evidence, including that Sabre unlawfully organised a group boycott against American, and that Sabre and Travelport illegally conspired to prevent competition from American’s direct connect technology.”

The American spokesman added: “We cannot provide details because the order is filed under seal. However, the key monopolisation claims were deemed plausible by the court and remain an important part of the case. We are confident in the merits of our claims and will continue vigorously pursuing this litigation.”

In a statement Sabre said: “The judge dismissed several of American’s claims against Sabre.  The court dismissed two of AA’s primary claims, including its claim that Sabre was ‘unreasonably restraining competition’. 

“The court allowed American to continue to pursue other claims, but only based on the assumption that American’s allegations in its complaint were true – which Sabre denies and which the court did not determine. 

“As to American’s new claims, the court said only that American may file them with the court.  The ruling specifically stated that ‘the Court is not concluding that these claims are plausible and sufficient to survive’.  The court gave Sabre the opportunity to move to dismiss those claims as well.

“We believe that all of American’s remaining claims are baseless and we look forward to proving that in court.  We still prefer to negotiate a new distribution agreement with American Airlines that meets the needs of all constituents, despite AA’s interest to use litigation as a negotiating tool.”

American has until December 5 to amend its complaint.

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