American seeks to delay GDS lawsuits

American Airlines is seeking permission from a Texas state court to extend by three months all deadlines in its lawsuit against Sabre.

Since resolution of that case would trigger the expiration of the AA-Sabre full-content deal, court approval effectively would guarantee Sabre subscribers access to AA's content for longer than previously anticipated.

"The timetable for this lawsuit was always aggressive for an antitrust case of this breadth and scope," AA noted in its request last month to the Tarrant County court. "But now, after American's Chapter 11 filing, the current trial timetables will force American's senior business leaders to dedicate their focus to this case at the same time when the success of the organization requires their focus to be on the reorganization."

Sabre would not comment on AA's request. However, AA in the court filing claimed the GDS operator "originally had asked American whether it would 'ice' the whole case as a result of the bankruptcy."

AA has no plans to oblige.

"Because this case is so important, American is not seeking to stay this case or put off the deadlines by any significant amount of time," according to its filing. "It simply seeks a little breathing room in the middle of a monumental event for the company."

The judge has yet to rule on AA's request. The case currently is scheduled to go to trial on June 13, 2012.

AA's vice president of global sales, Derek DeCross, in a memo last August told clients that AA and Sabre agreed to extend their full-content agreement until 14 days after state claims are resolved.

Citing its bankruptcy restructuring, AA last month also requested a five-month extension for deadlines in a separate federal antitrust case against Sabre and Travelport.

Travelport last month filed a motion to dismiss AA's latest claims and also filed under seal counterclaims against the carrier.

A source familiar with the proceedings said those counterclaims accuse AA of "engaging in an anticompetitive scheme to protect its monopolies on certain routes and to obtain monopolies and deceive customers into paying higher fares on other routes by decreasing transparency and the price competition that is facilitated by the GDSs."

Travelport further alleged that AA is "forcing" travel agents to use its direct-connect offering, a technology that "free-rides on GDS investments and services," according to the source.

Calling those counterclaims "meritless," AA in statement suggested Travelport is trying "to divert attention from the long-standing, wide-ranging illegal conduct of global distribution systems."

AA expects Sabre to similarly file counterclaims, according to court documents, though Sabre would not comment.

This report originally appeared Monday in The Beat.

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