American Sues Travelport, Orbitz as Ticket Dispute Expands

American Airlines sued Travelport Ltd. to stop what it called anticompetitive behavior and retaliation against the carrier for a push to use its own technology to distribute fares and schedules to travel agents.

The legal action expands a dispute between AMR Corp. (AMR)’s American and global distribution systems that historically have compiled fare and schedule data from various airlines and distributed them to travel agents. American wants to bypass those companies, including units of Travelport and Sabre Holdings Corp., and substitute its proprietary technology.

“Travelport, Orbitz and other industry participants have undertaken attacks against American that have been swift and punitive,” said the lawsuit, which was filed yesterday in federal court in Fort Worth, Texas.

The lawsuit against Travelport and its Orbitz Worldwide Inc. (OWW) affiliate seeks triple the airline’s actual damages as well as punitive damages to be determined at trial. More than $2.7 billion in sales were booked through Travelport’s global distribution systems in the past year, the lawsuit said. American had $16.8 billion in passenger revenue in 2010.

American said on April 4 it reached a tentative agreement with Expedia Inc. that would allow the online travel agency and its Hotwire unit to immediately resume selling the airline’s tickets, resolving a dispute that started in December. American remains in talks with Sabre after the two earlier agreed to freeze a lawsuit over the matter.

‘Bargaining Leverage’

“Travelport has always acted in a lawful manner,” the travel-reservation systems provider said in an e-mailed statement today. “It is likely that this lawsuit is merely another attempt by AA to gain bargaining leverage through litigation.”

American’s Direct Connect system would limit consumer choices and ability to compare fares among carriers, Chicago- based Orbitz said in a statement, which called the claims “baseless.”

Travelport, which sued American Airlines in November to block the carrier from terminating Orbitz’s ability to sell tickets on the airline’s flights, said it would vigorously defend the suit.

AMR declined 12 cents, or 2 percent, to $5.79 at 4:02 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Orbitz fell 11 cents, or 3.1 percent, to $3.41.

The case is American Airlines Inc. vs Travelport Ltd, Travelport LP and Orbitz Worldwide LLC, 4-11-cv-00244-Y, Northern District of Texas (Fort Worth).

To contact the reporters on this story: Mary Schlangenstein in Dallas at maryc.s@bloomberg.net; Andrea Tan in Singapore at atan17@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at edufner@bloomberg.net; Douglas Wong at dwong19@bloomberg.net

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