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Brussels opens probe into airline ticket distribution services

27 November 2018, 00:00 CET
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Brussels opens probe into airline ticket distribution services

Photo By Leonid Mamchenkov

(BRUSSELS) - The EU has opened a formal investigation into whether agreements between booking system providers Amadeus and Sabre and airlines and travel agents restrict competition in breach of EU antitrust rules.

"Our investigation into Amadeus and Sabre focuses on possible restrictions in competition in the market for airline ticket distribution services," said the Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager: "We are concerned that such restrictions could create barriers to innovation and raise ticket distribution costs, ultimately raising ticket prices for travellers."

Amadeus and Sabre are leading worldwide suppliers of Computerised Reservation Systems, also known as Global Distribution Systems. These systems aggregate information about flight schedules, seat availability and ticket prices from multiple airlines. They enable travel agents and travel management companies (both online and brick-and-mortar) to compare airline services and reserve and issue tickets on behalf of travellers.

The Commission says it will investigate whether certain terms in Amadeus' and Sabre's agreements with airlines and travel agents may restrict the ability of airlines and travel agents to use alternative suppliers of ticket distribution services. They say this may make it harder for suppliers of new ticket distribution services to enter the market, as well as increase distribution costs for airlines, which are ultimately passed on in the ticket prices paid by consumers.

The agreements under investigation may breach EU competition rules which prohibit agreements between companies that prevent, restrict or distort competition within the EU's Single Market (Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)).

The Commission will now carry out its in-depth investigation as a matter of priority. The opening of a formal investigation does not prejudge its outcome.

More information on the investigation will be available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register under the case number AT.40617 Airline ticket distribution (Amadeus) and AT.40618 Airline ticket distribution (Sabre).

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