In July 2021, Yetter Coleman filed a breach of contract suit in Tarrant County on behalf of our client American Airlines against Sabre Corp., the airline’s longtime ticket distributor.
In March 2021, Sabre announced plans to roll out new software, which it called the “New Airline Storefront,” that would change the way flight and fare information was displayed on the screens of travel agents who subscribed to Sabre’s service. The new display used dated technology that could not display American’s innovative new products, like extra leg room seating options.
In connection with the new software, Sabre also announced a new distribution agreement with Delta Air Lines through which Sabre would pay to travel agencies’ bonus incentives if the agencies booked high-value Delta flights instead of flights on other airlines, like American.
Yetter Coleman filed suit on behalf of American seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent Sabre from implementing both programs, because they violated American’s contract with Sabre by biasing airline ticket distribution against American, preventing travel agents from viewing American’s innovative new products, and incentivizing travel agents to book other airlines. The litigation was particularly important because Sabre’s actions occurred just as airlines were starting to recover from the pandemic and any loss of business would have been particularly harmful to American’s future prospects. Yetter Coleman pushed the litigation forward on an aggressive schedule, completing discovery of tens of thousands of pages of documents from Sabre and third parties, and taking and defending expert and fact depositions on an accelerated basis. Our aggressive discovery efforts uncovered even more issues with the New Airline Storefront, which we presented at a preliminary injunction hearing in October 2021, just four months after the suit was filed. The hearing lasted for five days, including opening statements, testimony by expert and fact witnesses, and closing arguments. During the hearing, we successfully established that the New Airline Storefront was riddled with technical issues and that it was reliant on dated transmission technology that made it impossible to display (and purchase) newer, innovative content from American and other airlines. Several weeks after the hearing the Judge denied our motion for a preliminary injunction without explanation, however, the issues we identified and proved appear to have limited the adoption of the New Airline Storefront by travel agents. Ultimately, the technological issues and lack of adoption caused Sabre to voluntarily deactivate and remove the New Airline Storefront software from its platform early in 2022. This outcome is significant for American and for the air travel industry because the now-removed New Airline Storefront software would have disincentivized innovation in the industry by displaying only products that utilized legacy transmission technology. With respect to the added travel agency incentives, we are continuing to litigate the case, with trial set for 2023.