07 Jan, 2021, 12:35 ET
NEW YORK, Jan. 7, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Online travel agency Fareportal has sued JetBlue Airways under federal antitrust laws for an alleged "scheme" to block consumers from being able to comparison shop JetBlue's fares with those of other airlines. Fareportal, who maintains long-term collaborative partnerships with over 600 airlines globally, is recognized for creating many industry-first innovations. The suit contends that JetBlue is trying to raise fares on routes it dominates by making it difficult for consumers to shop on price.
"Amidst the turbulence of the global pandemic, JetBlue is quietly pursuing a scheme to make it harder for American consumers to save money when they book air travel," wrote Fareportal in the lawsuit that was filed on Jan. 5, 2021 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. "JetBlue's goal is simple: to make it difficult for consumers to comparison shop when they want to fly."
Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) were born in the 1990s and dramatically increased competition and lowered fares by giving consumers the ability to easily compare ticket prices. "JetBlue is trying to force customers to book tickets on its website where the lack of price comparison with fares from other airlines will allow JetBlue to raise ticket prices for price-sensitive travelers," said Frederick Stein, Fareportal's Chief Legal & Compliance Officer.
As of Jan. 5, 2021, JetBlue has forced Fareportal to remove its flight and pricing information from the Fareportal websites including CheapOair, the largest flight-focused OTA. JetBlue previously blocked a dozen other OTAs from displaying JetBlue content to customers as part of "JetBlue's strategy to turn back the clock" and "return to the old days, before OTAs, when airline content was hidden," which made it difficult for travelers to compare services and fares.
The complaint goes on to detail that JetBlue will move to making higher profits from the ticket price increases by eliminating comparison shopping. The complaint states that JetBlue knows that its dominance in certain markets will force consumers to book through its website, with examples of markets in which the airline has a dominant presence including New York, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The lawsuit states that JetBlue is funding its anti-competitive strategy using COVID-19 relief funds by having "American taxpayers unwittingly fund its scheme to deprive them of the information they need to comparison shop." The suit further notes that "JetBlue is also prepared to suffer short-term losses because it is using taxpayer dollars to defray them" by "taking handouts from American taxpayers in the form of COVID relief. JetBlue is already set to receive over $685 million in direct support from American taxpayers and up to $1.14 billion in loans from the U.S. Treasury under the CARES Act and is poised to receive even more."
Fareportal is a travel technology company powering a next-generation travel concierge service. Utilizing its innovative technology and company owned and operated global contact centers, Fareportal has built strong industry partnerships providing customers access to over 600 airlines, a million hotels, and hundreds of car rental companies around the globe. With a portfolio of consumer travel brands including CheapOair and OneTravel, Fareportal enables consumers to book online, on mobile apps for iOS and Android, by phone, or live chat. Fareportal provides its airline partners with access to a broad customer base that books high-yielding international and domestic flight, hotel and other travel and add-on ancillaries.
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