Airline Can Pursue Orbitz Monpoly Case

     FORT WORTH (CN) – Orbitz and two reservation websites cannot dismiss claims that they shut American Airlines out, a federal judge ruled.
     Travelport and Sabre are computer-reservation systems that book and sell tickets for major airlines.
     American Airlines says the sites, known as global distribution systems (GDS), and Orbitz unfairly control dissemination of airline fare, flight and availability information.
     U.S. District Judge Terry Means denied the motion to dismiss on Aug. 7 under seal, but the motion was unsealed and made public last week.
     He found that the second amended complaint states a plausible conspiracy-to-monopolize claim.
     “According to American, the GDSes benefit directly from the GDS model because it allows them to enjoy the monopoly power, while travel agencies such as Orbitz benefit indirectly from the model because they share in the booking fees that the GDSes charge to airlines,” Means wrote. “These allegations, taken as true, support a reasonable inference that GDSes and travel agencies alike share an interest in preserving the status quo of the GDS model and defeating efforts such as AA Direct Connect that challenge the long-term viability of the GDS model.”
     American had adequately alleged an unreasonable restraint on interstate commerce by Sabre and Travelport in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act, according to the 23-page opinion.
     “American has alleged facts from which it may be inferred that Sabre and Travelport have agreed not to compete for American’s business, but instead to align themselves together in their negotiations with American,” Means wrote. “Because a horizontal agreement between competitors not to compete ‘would always or almost always tend to restrict competition and decrease output,’ Sabre and Travelport’s alleged agreement amounts to a restraint that is per-se unlawful.”
     American had also adequately alleged that Travelport and Sabre violated antitrust law with a group boycott and customer-allocation agreement, as well as their contracts with American, Means found.
     The Fort Worth-based airline filed suit after pulling its flight and fare content from Chicago-based Orbitz in December 2010. In June 2011, a Cook County County Court ordered the airline to resume publishing the information.
     Atlanta-based Travelport owns approximately half of Orbitz.
     American once owned Sabre but spun the unit off in a 2000 initial public offering. It is based in Southlake, Texas.

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