Orbitz suit could have big impact on online travel industry

April 13, 2011

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Chicago-based Orbtiz is vowing to fight an antitrust lawsuit brought by American Airlines in a case that could have big implications for the online travel booking industry.

In a suit filed Thursday in Texas, American accuses Orbitz and a company called Travelport of violating anti-trust laws. Travelport aggregates information on plane tickets from various airlines, then gives it to travel agencies.

But American said the two companies are misrepresenting its fares, and the carrier claims Travelport has an illegal near-monopoly on the business travel industry. American wants to cut out the middlemen and provide its information directly to travel bookers.

"The fight is about control, plain and simple," said Warren Miller, a senior analyst at Morningstar.

American previously threatened to pull its tickets from another online travel site, Expedia, until both sides reached an un-disclosed agreement. Now American is taking the fight to Orbitz.

"And if they go out and prove that they can, I'm certain that other travel suppliers and other airlines will follow suit," Miller said.

In a strongly worded news release Thursday, Orbitz said American is acting like a "marketplace bully," and that its proposed ticket distribution system would stifle competition.