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Sabre has announced it is to terminate its contract with American Airlines (AA) and make the carrier’s air fares harder to find on its global distribution system.
The travel technology firm said it was bringing its deal with the airline to an end to protect the interests of its customers.
The move is the latest development in a bitter dispute between AA and a number of online travel agents, following the airline’s move to a new commercial strategy which involves driving bookers to its Direct Connect product, thereby missing out the intermediary.
Expedia and Orbitz have already removed fares from American Airlines from their websites.
Sabre has accused American Airlines of withholding fare content, and has said it will scrap any existing booking discounts for the carrier.
In a statement a Sabre spokesperson said the company was responding to AA’s actions “taken in an attempt to impose a costly, unproven and unnecessary system” on agencies and companies.
Sabre’s spokesperson said: “We believe these actions are harmful to our agency and corporate customers, as well as consumers, making it harder and more costly to comparison shop.”
Sabre added it will continue to support airlines who “value the transparency and efficiency of the proven system we provide”.
AA, however, said it had met all its obligations and continued to work in good faith with Sabre.
In a statement, the airline said the travel technology firm’s action were “anti-consumer, anti-competitive and harmful to its subscribing agents”.
“Sabre’s actions are discriminatory and patently inconsistent with both its contractual obligations and its professed goal of ensuring full transparency for the benefit of consumers and travel agents,” said the airline.
“In contrast, the actions only serve to protect Sabre’s market position and attempt to force airlines and travel agencies to rely exclusively on its legacy systems that only lead to higher fares and fewer choices for consumers.”
The Business Travel Coalition (BTC) has branded AA’s behaviour as an “all out war for the future of both airline and all travel distribution in the U.S. and around the world”.
BTC chairman Kevin Mitchell said: “The stakes in this conflict are clear: either an improved airline industry and distribution marketplace centered around the consumer, or one that subordinates consumer interests to the self-serving motivations of individual airlines endeavoring to shift costs and impose their wills on consumers and the other participants in the travel industry.”
Single-supplier direct connect proposals like AA’s are likely to “significantly increase costs”, said Mitchell.
It will also cause “massive fragmentation of airfares and ancillary fees”, he added, meaning customers will no longer be able to compare the total cost of air travel options across all airlines.