ASTA and the Travel Technology Association filed a joint
brief supporting Sabre in its appeal of a jury's 2016 ruling in favor of US
Airways (now American Airlines), which found provisions in Sabre's contract
with the carrier were anticompetitive.
Last month, Sabre filed its opening appeal brief in the U.S.
Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, seeking to overturn the jury's verdict
and awarding US Airways $5.1 million in damages. The verdict was split, and the
jury did not agree with US Airways' claim that Sabre colluded with Amadeus and
In the initial lawsuit brought forth by US Airways in 2011,
it was alleged that Sabre used "its massive power over airlines such as US
Airways to entrench its antiquated and inefficient technological systems, to
preserve its supra-competitive booking fees, and to harm competition."
US Airways alleged that Sabre had "monopoly power,"
forcing the airline to enter into a contract with "oppressive and
anticompetitive terms" and required US Airways to provide the GDS with "full
appeal brief was filed last month.
"Sabre cited numerous errors of law by the trial court,"
the company said in a statement, including "jury instructions that were
inconsistent with higher court rulings and the erroneous exclusion of key
Sabre's key argument is that the district court did not take
into account a precedent the appeals court set in a 2015 U.S. v. American
In the American Express case, Sabre said, the appeals court "found
that Amex operated in a two-sided market in which contract provisions were
designed to protect competition by ensuring that one side of the market
(merchants) did not discriminate against the defendant's customers on the other
side of the platform (cardholders). US Airways had previously cited the federal
government's case against Amex as precedent for its own claim that Sabre's
contract provisions were anticompetitive."
In its brief, Sabre argued that like in the American Express
case, Sabre operates a two-sided platform charging fees to one side and
benefits and incentives to the other, and "the challenged contract
provisions were designed to protect competition among platforms."
Sabre also outlined several other "errors" by the district
court that originally heard the lawsuit.
Shortly after the appeal brief was filed, ASTA and the
Travel Technology Association (Travel Tech) filed a joint friend-of-the-court
brief supporting Sabre's appeal.
The parties said they
are interested in the case "because the District Court's decision, if
affirmed on appeal, threatens to 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 and, as a
result, fosters competition among airlines, which in turn benefits consumers."
According to the filing, ASTA and Travel Tech said GDSs have
created a distribution landscape where agents and consumers can easily find and
book flights, and their confidence in their ability to do that lies in knowing
the fares and flight options found through the GDS are likely the best
available -- something made possible because of full content contract
Fragmenting distribution would both lower the value of GDSs
and "diminish airline competition and output," ASTA and Travel Tech
argue in the filing.
The filing argues
that the GDS is a two-sided market as defined in the American Express case.
impact of the 'full content' provisions at issue must be assessed by considering
competition on both sides of the GDS platform, and not, as the district court
permitted the jury to do, on only the GDS-airline side of the market," the
filing states. "Otherwise, if the approach in the district court is
permitted to stand, the substantial, procompetitive benefits arising from 'full
content' provisions are ignored, resulting in a lopsided analysis, an erroneous
conclusion, and a fatally-flawed verdict."
US Airways' brief on the appeal is due Oct. 18.
An American Airlines spokesperson said it is expected that
the briefing on the appeal and US Airways' cross-appeal will run to the end of