Airfare Distributor Fires Back at AA

Wednesday, May 25, 2011  |  Updated 1:03 PM CDT
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Airfare Distributor Fires Back at AA

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American Airlines customers wait in line to check in for flights.

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A company that distributes airline flight and fare information is asking for dismissal of a lawsuit by American Airlines that alleges anticompetitive behavior.

American says Travelport Ltd., which owns a stake in Orbitz Worldwide Inc., is trying to control the distribution of airline tickets to business travelers. Travelport has accused American of trying to grab control over ticket distribution to limit customer choice and reduce competition.

In its complaint Wednesday, Travelport said the lawsuit is an attempt by American to get an advantage in negotiations before the pair's distribution contracts expire later this year.

"This is not a genuine antitrust action brought by consumers suffering from excessive or artificial price increases," Travelport said. "It is an opportunistic lawsuit brought by a large and powerful company seeking to enhance its already substantial commercial bargaining leverage."

Travelport also accused American of "bullying," saying its removal of tickets from Orbitz has resulted in the online travel agency losing more than half its market capitalization.

American, based in Fort Worth, Texas, wants to reduce costs by requiring online travel agencies to get flight and fare information directly from its computer system. That would cut commissions that so-called global distribution systems charge for providing the data to travel agencies. Travelport owns three of the five big systems, which sold $2.7 billion in American tickets last year.

American, a unit of AMR Corp., also sued distribution company Sabre, but the two have put the lawsuit on hold until June while they attempt to negotiate a new business agreement. American created Sabre as its own computerized reservations system in the 1950s. Sabre later spun off as a separate

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