American Airlines sues Sabre over fare display

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T0705AA737_C [Credit: American Airlines]
American has asked the court to issue a temporary injunction, pending trial, that will prevent Sabre from further use of its New Airline Storefront. Photo Credit: American Airlines

American Airlines has asked a Texas court to block Sabre from using its New Airline Storefront (NAS) display in GDS search results.

The carrier alleges that new display interface, which Sabre designed with assistance from Delta, biases search results toward Delta in violation of Sabre's contract with American.

American is also asking the court to block Sabre from paying incentives to travel agents who sell high-value Delta tickets that are larger than incentives its pays to agents who sell AA's high-value products.

"As American repeatedly has complained, and Sabre is fully aware, Sabre's new format does and will disadvantage American by providing inaccurate and misleading displays of American's travel information, including its products, services, fares, schedules and inventory, to travel agents who subscribe to Sabre's distribution services," reads the lawsuit, which American filed June 29 in Tarrant County, Texas. "In addition, Sabre told American that it intends to pay added incentives to travel agencies who book higher-end tickets on Delta under a new value-based booking fee model. This would cause travel agents to book critical business travelers on other airlines over American."

American has asked the court to issue a temporary injunction, pending trial, that will prevent Sabre from further use of NAS.

Sabre declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Sabre debuted NAS in April with plans to make the new display system its default approach for fair inquiries on the Sabre 360 Red platform. Billed by Sabre as a way to make comparative shopping for airline tickets easier, NAS displays fare inquiry results in virtual shelves, with the fares on each shelf grouped due to their similar product attributes.

Delta assisted Sabre in developing NAS as part of a broader strategy to encourage the GDS to more prominently merchandise its full complement of products. Also as part of that effort, Delta entered into a revamped contract with Sabre under which it has jettisoned the flat segment fees that are standard within the airline-GDS commercial model. Instead, beginning July1, Delta is scaling the amount it pays Sabre for a booking based upon the value of that booking.

Sabre has said the new model will bring "enhanced value" to travel advisors.

In its lawsuit, American claimed the new Sabre-Delta arrangement breaches its own contract with the Sabre by motivating travel advisors to sell high-end Delta products over its own premium products.

The carrier also alleges that the display format of NAS is biased in favor of Delta and that Sabre did not consult with American on the NAS design even though American is Sabre's largest client.

The lawsuit includes various examples of what American says are display biases. For example, an American Airlines Flagship First seat on a transcontinental flight is displayed on the same shelf as the business-class products of Delta and United. The display also leaves out American's own business-class offering, the carrier says.

Sabre's breaches of its contractual duty to display American flight and fare content in a fair, accurate, and non-misleading manner have caused and will cause harm," the lawsuit says. "Travel agents and customers need and are entitled to transparency and the fair and unbiased display of travel information through a GDS. Sabre's storefront forces travel agents to take extra steps to find American products, services and fares comparable to Delta products, services and fares."

American has requested a jury trial.

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