Orbitz Will Defend Against American Airlines Lawsuit

CHICAGO (AP) – American Airlines raised the stakes in its battle with ticket sellers by suing travel website Orbitz and distributor Travelport Ltd., accusing them of monopoly tactics.

American says the companies are trying to control the distribution of airline tickets to business travelers and are retaliating against American for objecting.

Orbitz and Travelport denied American’s charges. Orbitz said Wednesday that American was trying to grab control over ticket distribution to limit customer choice and reduce competition.

American’s antitrust lawsuit, filed this week in federal district court in Texas, is the latest twist in an ongoing battle that led American to pull its flight listings from Orbitz last December. American is trying to shift sales to its own website to reduce commissions it pays to online travel sites.

In the lawsuit, American said most of its passenger revenue still comes from tickets sold by travel agents who get information from so-called global distribution systems. Travelport owns three of the five big distribution systems, which handled $2.7 billion in American ticket sales last year.

The airline wants to cut out the distribution systems by providing information about flights and fares directly to travel agents from its own computer system.

American is seeking triple damages from lost ticket sales and higher fees, plus punitive damages. The AMR Corp. subsidiary has never disclosed the amount of sales it lost by not having flights listed on Orbitz.

Orbitz said the lawsuit had no merit.

“American Airlines made the decision to play the role of the marketplace bully and pull its fares from Orbitz,” the Chicago company said.

This month American, based in Fort Worth, Texas, settled a similar dispute with online travel agent Expedia, which dropped American’s listings around Jan. 1. The companies didn’t disclose terms of the deal.

In morning trading, AMR shares fell 18 cents, or 3 percent, to $5.73. Orbitz Worldwide Inc. shares lost a penny at $3.51.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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