Skift Take

The commission's inference is that it's more a case of a lack of evidence, rather a compliance with the antitrust rules. Another case into computerized reservation systems is ongoing.

The European Commission has found nothing illegal about the way two global distribution systems set up their agreements with travel agents and airlines.

The commission wanted to find out if any commercial terms set by Sabre and Amadeus made it harder for suppliers of new ticket distribution services to enter the market, as well as increase distribution costs for airlines.

“Our investigation into Amadeus and Sabre focuses on possible restrictions in competition in the market for airline ticket distribution services” said Commissioner Margrethe Vestager in November 2018, at the launch of investigation. “We are concerned that such restrictions could create barriers to innovation and raise ticket distribution costs, ultimately raising ticket prices for travellers.”

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In particular, did their agreements breach European Union competition rules which prohibit agreements between companies that prevent, restrict or distort competition within the EU’s Single Market, or Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union?

Two and a half years later, it found that Sabre and Amadeus did not breach European Union antitrust rules — but it will still be keeping an eye on distribution overall.

“The commission has reached the conclusion that the evidence collected is not sufficiently conclusive to justify pursuing the investigation further,” it said in a statement on Monday. However, it added that closing this case did not mean that their airline and agent agreements complied with the competition rules.

The commission will continue to monitor developments in the airline ticket distribution sector. It is reviewing the regulation which governs the relationship between airlines, booking system providers and travel agents (Regulation (EC) No 80/2009 on a Code of Conduct for computerised reservation systems), and conducting an impact assessment to examine the full range of policy options and their potential implications.

Amadeus said that it had worked closely with the commission in an open and transparent manner since the investigation’s launch in 2018, and that it would continue to do so in light of this next review.

“Amadeus stands for fairness and neutrality in airline distribution, providing non-discriminatory and neutral market access for airlines, and choice for consumers and travel buyers. In today’s uncertain Covid-19 context, when a sustainable recovery is at stake, this neutral marketplace is more crucial than ever.”

A spokesperson for Sabre told Skift: “We are pleased that the EC has closed its investigation. We are not commenting any further on this matter.”

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Tags: airline distribution, amadeus, antitrust, european commission, european union, global distribution systems, sabre

Photo credit: Amadeus said that it had worked closely with the commission in an open and transparent manner since the investigation's launch in 2018. Amadeus

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