White Flags Waving: AA, Sabre Put Their Legal Battle on Hold

by Michèle McDonald – Travel Market

American Airlines and Sabre Travel Network have called a truce, and Sabre has reverted to unbiased displays of American flights. The warring parties put their legal wrangling on hold until June 1.

“American Airlines and Sabre will begin work shortly in an effort to reach a new agreement,” the companies said in a brief joint statement. 

“Both parties will return to operating as they were prior to Jan. 5, 2011, in terms of Sabre displays, American Airlines content and economic terms,” the statement continued.

Why now?
Neither American nor Sabre would comment on the truce, or what prompted it.

But the dispute recently has received a lot of consumer media attention, particularly since Orbitz and Expedia became involved in the fracas.

Last week, 117 companies and groups banded together as Open Allies for Airfare Transparency to oppose the type of direct connection that is at the heart of the American-Sabre dispute. The Open Allies group includes major travel agencies, the Big 3 online agencies, trade associations and corporations with big travel budgets

Battle tactics
The dispute between American and Sabre began over American’s insistence that travel agents connect to the carrier via its direct XML link in order to sell its ancillary products.

American’s strategy has been perceived as bold, and even risky.

On Jan. 5, Sabre began biasing American’s displays in the U.S. and most of the rest of the world. (It was prohibited from doing so in Canada and the European Union.)

At that time, Sabre also revoked the discounts on segment fees that American had received in exchange for a long-term contract.

In response, American filed suit against Sabre and won a temporary restraining order prohibiting the display bias.

The parties had been scheduled to meet again in a Tarrant County (Fort Worth) court on Feb. 14. With the truce, they won’t be keeping that Valentine’s Day date.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for American said the airline is still suing Travelport, but the case will now be heard in a Cook County (Chicago) court.

Unfair portrayal?
In the regions of the world affected by Sabre’s biased displays, the GDS processed more than $6 billion in American Airlines tickets from December 2009 through November 2010.

By some estimates, large online agencies account for about 15% of American’s revenue.

In its lawsuit against Sabre and Travelport, American made clear that it felt the actions of Sabre, Travelport, Orbitz and Expedia unfairly portrayed the airline as the bad guy.

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Director of Sales for the Candlewood Suites located in Secaucus, NJ.
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