American sues Latin American website Despegar.com, pulls fares

Washington DC
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American Airlines has filed suit against online travel agent Despegar.com USA and its affiliates in Latin America, claiming that it misrepresented and inflated the carrier's fares on their websites.

The Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier claims that Despegar.com and its affiliates "artificially inflated fares" through the addition of undisclosed charges and fees, in the lawsuit filed with the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Miami division, on 1 August. It adds that the fees are higher for its flights compared to those offered on other airlines.

American is the largest US airline serving Latin America.

The airline adds that it believes the defendants generated sales totalling "millions of dollars annually" from Florida residents alone under the scheme.

"This scheme harms American's business in Florida by wilfully and maliciously diverting customers from American," it says in the suit.

The suit adds: "Defendants harm both the business reputation of AA and diminish the value of the American Airlines marks" - referring to its trademarked brand.

American pulled its fares from Despegar.com's sites, which cover Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Spain, Uruguay and Venezuela, as well as its subsidiary Decolar.com in Brazil on 1 August, it confirms.

Despegar.com claims to be the "largest online travel agency in Latin America".

The online travel agent did not respond to requests for comment.