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American said Sabre’s new format for displaying airfares breaches its contract with American by biasing search results in favor of its domestic rival Delta Air Lines.
In May, Sabre announced a multi-year distribution contract with Delta that promised to use more modern methods of “merchandising” airfare content, as Skift reported.
American said that in its review of a preview of the interface that Sabre provided, the airline “discovered numerous instances of the storefront favoring Delta products over those of American, including displays that omit, hide, or misrepresent certain American products.”
The airline said this violates its contract with Sabre, which requires the tech firm to display its content “fairly, neutrally, and accurately.” The lawsuit language implied the carrier had “anti-display bias” and “anti-financial incentive” terms in its distribution contract with Sabre.
Sabre said it didn’t have a comment on the lawsuit, embedded below.
Details on Sabre’s agreement with Delta referred to changed commercial terms supporting its latest distribution contract renewal but it’s common for companies not to get into specifics of contract terms.
American cited a few examples it claimed exhibited bias. One is that it claimed Delta’s Comfort Plus product, which lets flyers board early and nab seats with more legroom and other perks for an additional price. American claimed that in the versions of Sabre’s display it saw, American’s comparable bundled products weren’t presented in as clear of a comparison. The lawsuit alleged this display is “misleadingly conveying to travel agents that Delta has products that American does not.”
“American is the largest customer of Sabre today,” the lawsuit said. The two companies have previously tussled in court over topics such as the airline’s merger partner US Airways and other antitrust allegations, which Sabre has denied.
At a May investor conference, Glen Hauenstein, president of Delta, commented on the Sabre deal when speaking with Hunter Keay, a senior analyst at Wolfe Research.
“We’ve been encouraging our redistributors to provide that entire value spectrum to the end-user,” Hauenstein said. “Our Sabre deal was a part of that. We want to get the value chain aligned.”
“Prior to this, everything was treated the same, although the value to the airline and the margins were not the same,” Hauenstein said. “So trying to align that to incentivize people to sell off into the more premium cabins where margins are larger was really driving force behind that agreement.”