June 24 (Bloomberg) -- Sabre Holdings Corp. can’t stop AMR Corp.’s American Airlines from seeking a court order barring Sabre from listing the carrier’s fare and flight data below that of rivals in displays for travel agents, a Texas judge said.
Judge Don Cosby in Fort Worth yesterday ruled that Sabre can’t stop American from requesting an injunction. He rejected Sabre’s argument that federal law preempts the Texas state court’s authority to keep it from giving preference to other airlines’ information.
The Texas court case is part of a broader dispute spurred by American’s push to provide data directly to travel agents rather than going through a company such as Sabre, which compiles the information from airlines and distributes it to travel agents. Some airlines want to use their own technology to customize offerings for travelers and boost revenue.
Travelers booking through an online travel agent usually pick the airline listed highest on the screen that meets their schedule and fare preference. So-called biasing can hurt an airline by listing its results last, even when it best meets the traveler’s search criteria. The same goes for travel agents looking for a flight to meet a customer’s requirements.
American has filed antitrust claims against Sabre, the largest U.S.-based so-called global distribution system, and against Travelport Ltd. US Airways Group Inc. has sued Sabre to block alleged anticompetitive actions. The U.S. Justice Department said in May it was investigating possible antitrust violations by such data distributors.
At Fort Worth-based American’s request, the court issued a Jan. 10 order temporarily prohibiting Sabre from “de- preferencing” the airline’s schedule information on Sabre’s distribution system. American said last week at a hearing that the order had expired. American has requested a hearing to seek a new injunction.
The companies agreed in January to try to resolve their differences out of court. The agreement expired on June 1 without a settlement.
Sabre, based in South Lake, Texas, said in court papers that it hasn’t taken any subsequent steps to disfavor display of American’s fares.
Nancy St. Pierre, a Sabre spokeswoman, said yesterday’s ruling is “one step in the process.”
“Really our goal is to get a new distribution agreement with American,” she said in a phone interview.
Ryan Mikolasik, a spokesman for American, said in an e-mail that the company was pleased with the ruling.
The case is American Airlines Inc. v. Sabre Inc., Judicial District Court, Tarrant County, Texas.
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