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Airlines Don’t Like Their Bookings System Any More Than You Do

Airlines Don’t Like Their Bookings System Any More Than You Do
Jeff Edwards

Airlines around the world depend on Sabre Corporation to manage their bookings, but the travel technology company has a sometimes rocky alliance with its list of clients, which includes nearly all of the biggest carriers on the planet. Now, it seems that this love/hate relationship has pitted regulators in the U.S. and Europe against the massive travel IT company.

The reason Sabre Corporation is a household name likely has more to do with the Texas-based company’s headline-making failures than the fact that the IT firm is responsible for processing the vast majority of the world’s airline bookings. Even those passengers who are blissfully unaware that the travel technology firm processes millions of travel transactions each day and is relied on to handle the bookings of 70 airlines around the globe, will probably recognize the name Sabre from the occasional air travel calamities it has been blamed for in recent years.

Sabre was linked to several high-profile IT outages which forced airlines to cancel and delay thousands of flights. The most recent of these instances occurred in March of this year, affecting American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, JetBlue and WestJet.

“In recent years, the airline industry experienced several well-publicized IT system outages to reservations, check-in, flight planning, and other systems,” the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) wrote in a report which has been viewed as highly critical of the current airline industry IT regime and Sabre specifically. “Such outages can result in widespread disruption to air travel, inconveniencing passengers, who may be delayed or face out-of-pocket costs, and can also affect airlines’ revenue and operations.”

It is perhaps reasonable to wonder why so many airlines depend on what is an arguably unreliable platform. The answer, in most cases, is that there aren’t many attractive alternatives. Airlines have become increasingly unhappy with this predicament (and often vocally so).

Now, Wired reports that Sabre’s tense and at times hostile relationship with the airlines is finally coming back to haunt the former American Airlines subsidiary. Unhappy airline industry leaders are said to have brought antitrust concerns to regulators on both sides of the Atlantic. According to the magazine, the European Union (EU) is investigating both Sabre and its competitor Amadeus over suspected antitrust violations. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a suit in August seeking to prevent Sabre from acquiring the startup travel technology firm Farelogix.

“Sabre’s proposed acquisition of Farelogix is a dominant firm’s attempt to take out a disruptive competitor that has been an important source of competition and innovation,” Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim said in a statement announcing the legal action.  “If allowed to proceed, the acquisition would likely result in higher prices, reduced quality, and less innovation for airlines and, ultimately, traveling American consumers.”

Sabre officials countered that the “airline technology sector” has dozens of competing segments, including dozens of startup companies as well as the airlines themselves. Sabre noted that the two firms already collaborate in many areas.

“The DOJ’s claims lack a basis in reality and reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the industry,” the company said in a statement vowing to fight the action by the DOJ.  “The DOJ claims that Sabre and Farelogix compete head to head for airline bookings in the United States, but that claim misstates Farelogix’s role in the industry. Sabre and Farelogix offer complementary services, and this transaction is the continuation of an already successful collaboration between the two companies.

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1 Comment

  1. daniellam

    September 6, 2019 at 8:53 am

    Actually more airlines use Amadeus as opposed to Sabre. They had outages as well.

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