Sabre Takes on American, Too

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Sabre Holdings, which operates a broad distribution system (and owns Travelocity), announced it will terminate its contract with American in August and suppress American's fares in the meantime.

In a statement, the company said, "For a number of months, American Airlines has taken actions in an attempt to impose a costly, unproven and unnecessary system on agencies and corporations, including withholding fare content from Sabre. We believe these actions are harmful to our agency and corporate customers, as well as consumers, making it harder and more costly to comparison shop."

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Sabre said it will terminate its contract with American in August, a month before it is scheduled to expire. In the meantime, Sabre will suppress American's fares in its various travel agent tools. The Dallas Morning News' Eric Torbensen writes, "[Sabre] believes American is withholding some key information that Sabre says it needs to push out to customers, and because of that American is losing its booking fee discount with Sabre, which runs the largest travel agency network in the world."

Dennis Schaal at TNooz adds, "Sabre’s actions penalize American Airlines in two ways: The airline’s inventory will appear lower in availability and shopping displays, meaning they can be booked, but with great difficulty. In addition, Sabre has jacked up the GDS booking fees that American pays to Sabre." In effect, American is also largely isolated from the online fare marketplace. Travelers can still compare American fares on sites such as Priceline, Kayak, and Travelocity (not to mention SmarterTravel).

Speaking of Travelocity, Sabre does indeed own it, but Travelocity has not taken any extreme measures against American (yet), unlike Expedia. But if Sabre does terminate its contract in August, it's possible American fares will vanish from Travelocity's search results.

In its own statement, American said Sabre's actions are "anti-consumer, anti-competitive and harmful to its subscribing agents." It called Sabre's move "discriminatory and patently inconsistent with both its contractual obligations and its professed goal of ensuring full transparency for the benefit of consumers and travel agents.

"In contrast, the actions only serve to protect Sabre’s market position and attempt to force airlines and travel agencies to rely exclusively on its legacy systems that only lead to higher fares and fewer choices for consumers."

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