Sabre has garnered support from key industry groups in its fight to overturn a jury’s ruling in a six-year-old antitrust case brought by USAirways, with ASTA and the Travel Technology Association (TTA) filing a brief to support the GDS giant.
The move comes on the heels of Sabre’s recent appeal of last year’s jury verdict, which ruled in favor of USAirways (now part of American Airlines) in determining that Sabre had used what the airline described as “monopoly power” to impose anticompetitive provisions on the carrier.
The jury last year awarded the carrier $5 million – a significant reduction from the $134 million US Airways originally had sought – that will be trebled if the ruling stands.
The carrier had charged that Sabre threatened to cut it off from a network of thousands of travel agents unless it accepted a full-content contract that would require it to provide Sabre with all the prices it offers on every other channel, including its own website.
But Sabre, insisting it “acted lawfully and fairly,” has vowed to fight the decision, and is building a case to show that the trial court that heard the case made “numerous errors of law.”
In their friend of court brief, ASTA and the TTA argue that if the district court’s decision is allowed to stand, it could have serious implications for competition in the industry. They warned that the decision could “disrupt airfare distribution that promotes competition by allowing travel agents and air travelers to easily search, through GDSs, for the flights and fares that best suit their needs.”
The two groups criticized the decision as “fatally flawed,” and warned that in the longer term, it could result in reduced competition and harm to consumers, who wouldn’t have the full access to fares and flight choices they get under the current distribution system.
Sabre also wrote in its appeals court brief that in order to attract travel agent subscribers, it needs to offer agents incentive fees along with access to all of an airline’s flight inventory and fares. Sabre said it would be willing to negotiate a lower booking fee if the airline makes all its flights and fares available on Sabre’s platform.