IATA squares up to Sabre, demands unsealing of court documents from American Airlines case
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.
Kevin May is a senior editor and one of the co-founders at Tnooz. He was previously editor of UK-based magazine Travolution and web editor of Media Week UK from 2003 to 2005.
He has worked in regional newspapers (Essex Enquirer) and started his career in journalism at the Police Gazette at New Scotland Yard in London. He has a degree in criminology, a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism and will be publishing his first book - a biography about electronic band, Depeche Mode - soon.