Court tells American to put airfares back on Orbitz

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 01, 2011 5:58 PM
Court tells American to put airfares back on Orbitz

By Kyle Peterson

CHICAGO (Reuters) - AMR Corp's American Airlines must reinstate its fares and flight schedule on Orbitz.com after it pulled content in December during a spat over how Orbitz Worldwide publishes the carrier's fares, an Illinois court said on Wednesday.

The decision grants Orbitz and Travelport, which owns nearly half of Orbitz, injunctive relief that was denied late last year by a different judge. Travelport later appealed that initial ruling.

"The court should have preserved the status quo and should have ordered American Airlines to refrain from terminating any of the Orbitz agreements until the case was decided on the merits," said Judge Lee Preston in his ruling.

Although the matter is far from its final resolution, Orbitz was quick to declare victory.

"This reinstatement of American Airlines' full schedule of flights on Orbitz.com and Orbitz for Business is a win for transparency, consumer choice and for all of our mutual customers," Orbitz said in a statement.

American Airlines said it was evaluating its options but would comply with the court order.

"We want to underscore that this is the exact opposite conclusion than that of the judge who heard the evidence," American said in an e-mailed statement.

Orbitz, which competes with Expedia Inc, Priceline.com and Travelocity in the online travel space, has never said exactly how much revenue it would lose by not selling American Airlines tickets. Chief Executive Barney Harford has said Orbitz has replaced about half of its American Airlines bookings with bookings on other airlines.

American Airlines pulled its content from Orbitz in December after Orbitz refused to adopt American's new technology that would let consumers price their trips based on other factors besides just fares. Airlines commonly charge fees for ancillary services like food and bag checks.

American Airlines is involved in multiple legal disputes with third-party ticket sellers as its attempts to lower its distribution costs. Travel industry analysts say the disputes have the potential to upset the business model of travel agents.

American Airlines filed a lawsuit this year claiming Orbitz and airfare data provider Travelport made American's fares look higher to consumers than they were.

American Airlines on Wednesday said it added Sabre Holdings Corp, a global distribution system, to its federal antitrust lawsuit originally filed against Travelport Ltd, which seeks to stop "exclusionary, anti-consumer and anti-competitive" practices.

(Reporting by Kyle Peterson; editing by Carol Bishopric and Robert MacMillan)