A Texas court has granted American Airlines’ request to delay its lawsuit against Sabre to give it time to focus on its reorganization under Chapter 11, extending a lull in the ongoing battle between airlines and GDSs over the future of airline distribution. American is leading the charge for direct connect among airlines, taking its battle to the courts. But its bankruptcy means it has to focus on other matters, so it asked for a three-month extension, and was given a little less than two months. The 67th District Court in Texas pushed the trial date back to Aug. 6. It had been June 13.
This means that agents using Sabre will have access to American’s content at least until summer’s end.
American is suing Sabre, accusing Sabre of trying to prevent American and other carriers from pursuing a direct connect strategy that is at the heart of a nearly year-old wrestling match between American, the GDSs and online travel agencies (OTAs).
Content wars have been going on between the GDSs and airlines for years, but American has been the point man among airlines over the past year in pursuing a direct connect strategy that the GDSs see as an effort to cut them out of the booking process. The GDSs have been the main marketplace for shopping for and buying airline tickets for the past 50 years. It’s a battle over dollars -- the airlines pay GDSs booking fees for displaying and distributing their fares, although airlines have succeeded in reducing those fees over the past several years.
American responded to the new date for the trial by saying it has always been open to negotiating a new and fair agreement with Sabre.
For its part, Sabre said that it was disappointed with the delay because it continues uncertainty for its travel agency and travel management company customers. Sabre said in a statement that its preference is to negotiate with American, and called its decision to take the matter to the courts in the first place “unfortunate.”
This latest round went public in late in 2010, apparently as American began negotiating its contracts with several GDSs. American first pulled its content out of Orbitz, apparently in a power play against Travelport, which owns two GDSs and a big chunk of Orbitz. Over the Christmas holidays, Expedia dropped American from its displays and Sabre depreferenced its displays of American’s content. A court order forced Sabre to back down and Expedia and Sabre ultimately reinstated American’s fares. There may be a lull, but the battles are far from over.