Travelport settles consumers’ class action antitrust lawsuit against GDS companies

Travelport reached a settlement agreement in an antitrust lawsuit charging the three western GDS companies with conspiring to avoid competing with each other.

Sabre and Amadeus remain defendants in the class action lawsuit, filed in 2015 in the U.S. District Court in New York City.

In a statement, Travelport made it clear that the settlement, which requires approval by the court, was not prompted by the merits of the case but by a desire to make it go away:

“Travelport acknowledges that it has reached a settlement with the plaintiffs in the matter of Gordon, et al. v. Amadeus IT Group, S.A., which, if approved by the court, would resolve all pending claims against Travelport in the case. As noted in the settlement agreement itself, Travelport denies that it committed any violations of law or engaged in any unlawful act or conduct, nor is Travelport aware of any evidence to the contrary. Travelport, to avoid the legal expense and distraction of ongoing litigation, agreed to settle the case on terms that will allow the company to focus on continuing to provide a transparent, pro-competitive platform to connect travel buyers and travel sellers.”

The complaint is unusual in that it was brought by a group of 21 consumers and “all others similarly situated,” who presumably would have had little or no direct contact with GDS companies.

The class action seeks to represent “all U.S. residents who purchased a ticket on American, Continental, Delta, Northwest, United, US Airways, AirTran, Alaska or JetBlue between June 1, 2006 [the year full-content agreements were introduced], and the present.”

The plaintiffs claim that the GDS companies’ practices have kept air fares artificially high by forcing airlines to accept to accept a nearly identical contract provision prohibiting the airlines from offering different content or lower prices through other distribution channels.

It was part of a plan “to strangle airlines’ ability to negotiate fees and offer differentiated content,” they said.

Much of the material in the original complaint was similar to verbiage used in US Airways’ lawsuit vs. Sabre.

It also appeared to borrow heavily from American Airlines’ 2011 lawsuits against Sabre and Travelport, which were settled.

The case is currently in the discovery phase. Judge Katherine Polk Failla has not yet set a trial date.

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