IATA squares up to Sabre, demands unsealing of court documents from American Airlines case

IATA has ratcheted up the distribution debate further by filing a motion in the US to have court documents from the recent SabreAmerican Airlines case unsealed.

The airline industry body, alongside co-signatory to the motion filed at the 67th Judicial District in Texas, A4A (Air Transport Association of America), claim the documents sealed since the end of the case in October 2012 will reveal evidence of “anti-competitive business practices”.

Sabre has taken “significant steps to prohibit the public’s access” to the documents, the motion claims, contrary to Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 76A which allows all court records to be “open to the general public absent specific, serious and substantial interests which clearly outweigh the presumption of openness”.

IATA accuses Sabre of having a message around supporting regulation for consumer choice and protection, but says a public view of the documents, in which IATA says American Airlines accused Sabre of anti-competitive practices, “will likely show that Sabre has only its market position – not consumers’ interests – in mind when supporting such regulations”.

“Sabre claims to be acting on behalf of consumers, but its motives are suspect,” the IATA/A4A motion says.

Sabre issued an emergency motion in mid-October, just days ahead of settling its case with American Airlines, to seal over 100 documents, claiming they contained confidential information.

Two specific tranches of documents (Exhibits A and B) are said to contain the evidence which IATA is eager to have available for further scrutiny.

The case has been surrounded in secrecy ever since the pair settled their differences, with only a short joint statement issued about negotiations over “additional technology services in the future” and the renewal of their distribution agreement.

A mystery “monetary payment” given to the carrier, also outlined in the statement, could be the $280 million disclosed in recent financial documents by American Airlines over a “settlement of a commercial dispute”.

The latest twist in the case comes as IATA continues to push its NDC (New Distribution Capability) initiative – a controversial programme criticised by the likes of Sabre.

Coincidentally, IATA’s motion materialised as Sabre issued a countersuit to a long-running dispute with US Airways in which it accused the airline of “anti-competitive” practices when it removed inventory from the GDS.

UPDATE: A hearing on 23 January about the IATA motion was cancelled – no new date has been set.

NB: Sabre declined to comment on the IATA motion. IATA said it had nothing to add beyond what is included in the motion .

NB2: Sealed documents image via Shutterstock.

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Kevin May

About the Writer :: Kevin May

Kevin May was a co-founder and member of the editorial team from September 2009 to June 2017.



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  1. Timothy O'Neil-Dunne

    Having ploughed through quite a few of the open documents it is relatively easy to see how IATA could draw inference that there was substantial evidence to point to anti competitive behaviour by Sabre. Sabre on the other had is using the same law to further its position that it feels that IATA has “colluded” to inhibit access to content (in the US Airways case).

    What is hilarious about all of this is that Sabre’s own documents (contracts) specifically draw attention to the problems associated with the business model of full content. The GDS’s argument that they have a god given right to the content that they previously restricted would be an interesting point to see argued in open court. I would love to see the video of that!

    That IATA (who has restricted legal standing in the USA due to its own loss of anti-trust immunity stemming back several decades) has chosen to step in pits the GDS against its paying customer base, just has to be rather interesting.



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