Fort Worth-based American Airlines is suing neighboring reservations technology provider Sabre Holdings over a new technology portal that the carrier says favors competitor Delta Air Lines.
In a lawsuit filed this week in Tarrant County, American claims that a “New Airline Storefront” by Southlake-based reservations firm Sabre hurts American with “inaccurate and misleading” information on the airline’s products and that it gives extra incentives to travel agencies to book higher-end tickets on Delta.
Sabre, one of the global leaders in reservations and ticketing technology through its global distribution system, provides fares, schedules and inventory to most of the country’s leading airlines, including American, Delta and United. The company even has deals with Southwest to attract business clients, even though the Dallas-based carrier doesn’t advertise its fares on third-party sites.
American and Sabre have a tangled history, with Sabre actually starting at American Airlines as the carrier’s reservation system before growing so large that it was spun off in 2000 to start servicing the broader travel industry, including hotels and car rental firms. Sabre operates its global headquarters in Southlake and has about 7,500 employees worldwide.
Now the two companies are at odds as airlines hit a crucial point in the COVID-19 pandemic recovery. Carriers are vying for routes and customers while trying desperately to get back onto financially stable ground.
The lawsuit comes shortly after a “transformative global distribution agreement” between Sabre and Delta announced in May. In a release announcing the deal, Sabre specifically references the “New Airline Storefront” created in collaboration with Delta.
But that goes against the deal Sabre already has in place with American, the lawsuit said. American says its contract with Sabre requires the contractor to “display American’s fare, schedule and inventory data fairly, neutrally and accurately.”
“Despite the fact that American is Sabre’s largest client, Sabre did not consult with American on the storefront development or design, and only recently provided American with sufficient access ... to review how its travel information is being displayed,” the lawsuit said.
Among the complaints, American says that Sabre conflates some of its fares for different products and compares them with products that appear cheaper on competing airlines, namely Delta. The lawsuit says the new portal also creates new segments for travel agents to see that only show Delta’s “Comfort plus” product.
“Sabre’s actions are especially harmful now, when the U.S. economy — along with business air travel — is recovering from the recent pandemic and American is attempting to rebuild its business,” American claims in the suit.
Sabre was equally rocked by the pandemic slowdown because its revenues are directly tied to commissions from ticket sales. The company lost $311 million as revenues plummeted 66% for 2020. The company cut its workforce by more than 1,700 employees in 2020, according to regulatory filings.
Getting priority placement on distribution systems could be key as airlines emerge from subdued COVID-19 pandemic flying and compete to attract business, international and high-end travelers that are more likely to use travel agents and book premium fares in business and first-class sections.
This article originally appeared on Dallas Morning News