US Justice Department investigating GDS practices

Washington DC
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The ongoing dispute between airlines and global distribution systems (GDSs) that handle a major share of ticket sales for carriers has ratcheted up a notch with an investigation by the US Department of Justice.

The DOJ confirmed to ATI today that its anti-trust division is investigating the "possibility of anti-competitive practices in the global distributions system industries". No specific companies or details were offered but a DOJ spokesperson said it is an "industry wide investigation."

Delta Air Lines told ATI today it had received a Civil Investigative Demand (CID) from the Antitrust Division of the US DOJ seeking information about GDSs. "Delta intends to cooperate fully with the Department of Justice in this matter."

US Airways also confirmed it had received a CID from DOJ. Late last week, American Airlines announced that it had received a CID and intended to work with the investigation.

Several billion dollars annually are paid by airlines to GDSs, which in turn collect booking fees from airlines and turn over a portion to travel agents, both traditional and online entities.

But airlines are increasingly demanding greater technological flexibility with GDSs in order to maximize new merchandising and ancillary revenue opportunities.

American recently filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the Travelport GDS, contending Travelport and its affiliate Orbitz engage in anti-trust activity. The carrier pulled it inventory from Orbitz in December. US Airways last month filed a lawsuit against Sabre, arguing it practices anti-competitive behaviour.

"Yes, the US Department of Justice has contacted us as we believe they have contacted others as well. We are cooperating fully," said a spokesperson for Sabre Holdings, parent company of online travel agent Travelocity.