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Orbitz Loses Bid to Enforce American Airlines Settlement

Orbitz Worldwide Inc., the online travel-reservations business, lost a bid for a court order compelling American Airlines to honor an alleged agreement to settle an antitrust lawsuit filed by the carrier.

Attorneys for the airline, a unit of bankrupt AMR Corp., disputed Chicago-based Orbitz’s assertion of an accord at a hearing yesterday before U.S. District Judge Terry R. Means in Fort Worth, Texas.

The carrier conceded only that inconclusive discussions were held. Later yesterday, Means issued a sealed order agreeing with American’s position.

“While this court certainly encourages settlement agreements, it simply is disinclined to enforce anything short of a final, signed agreement,” the judge said in a public docket entry referencing e-mails between the parties and “the nature of this litigation.”

In October, the airline resolved disputes with Sabre Holdings Inc., which had been a co-defendant in the federal case that also includes Travelport LP. American claims a conspiracy existed to block it from entering the electronic flight-data and reservations business.

Orbitz filed papers with the court under seal on Jan. 30, asking Means to order American to abide by an agreement it said it had with the airline.

‘No Exceptions’

“There was an offer, a term sheet, no exceptions, and there was acceptance,” Orbitz lawyer Christopher Yates told the judge yesterday, referring to terms the lawyer said Fort Worth-based American sent to his client in August.

The accord called for no payment to either party, mutual releases from liability and Orbitz’s agreement to provide American with information it could use against the other defendants in the litigation, Yates said in court. In exchange, the airline would drop the case against Orbitz, the lawyer said.

Airline lawyer Paul Yetter yesterday told Means the deal was never completed.

“It was very clear in their discussions: All agreements had to be in writing,” Yetter said in court. “The key thing is the ‘I accept.’”

“There was never a conversation like ‘OK, we have a deal,’” the attorney said.

The case is American Airlines v. Travelport Ltd., 11-cv-00244, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas (Fort Worth).

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