Sabre lost a bid to end the U.S. Transportation Department's authority to regulate independent GDS companies. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that in a 1952 law that gave the department the authority to regulate ticket agents, Congress' definition of "ticket agent" was "sufficiently broad" to include GDSs.
Sabre wanted to get out from under the department's authority because it believed that the DOT would "act against a practice that Sabre would otherwise find financially attractive, namely the sale of display bias," according to the court's ruling.
When the department allowed the old CRS rules to sunset in 2004, it stated that it retains authority over non-airline systems. "No one has contested our authority to regulate the systems' display practices under our authority to prohibit deceptive practices, if the systems are ticket agents," it said. Yet in opposing Sabre's petition to set aside the portions of the DOT's final rule on CRS regulations that label the systems as "ticket agents," lawyers for the department argued that Sabre offers only "speculation" as to whether and how the department might in the future regulate independent CRSs.
They maintained that it is "unreasonable" to assume that the department would seek to enforce regulations, such as the prohibition on display bias, that it has specifically allowed to sunset.
The court agreed with Sabre that "the department's statements, taken as a whole, indicate a very high probability that it will act against" the sale of display bias, which it considers "categorically anti-competitive and unfair, at least under current market conditions."
Nevertheless, the court ruled that Sabre's petition failed on its merits because it did not show that CRSs cannot be included in the definition of "ticket agent."
The court said "Sabre's position that independent CRSs are like newspapers, which provide a forum and marketplace for sales and purchases of goods and services, ignores that newspapers neither sell the merchandise they advertise nor charge their readers or advertisers fees when a reader makes a purchase as a result of a newspaper advertisement."