On May 24, 2019, the European Travel Agents’ and Tour Operators’ Associations (“ECTAA”) filed a complaint with the Commission against airline trade association IATA for alleged breaches of Articles 101 and 102 TFEU.
According to ECTAA’s press release, commercial relationships between travel agents and airlines have fundamentally changed over the past several years as airlines have started to compete directly with travel agents for the distribution of tickets. ECTAA claims that while commission-based remuneration schemes have been abandoned, IATA has maintained “very strict, unilateral and disproportionate contractual constraints” on travel agents’ ability to sell tickets. Accordingly, ECTAA claims IATA is abusing its dominant position by favoring airlines over travel agents in the market for air ticket distribution, thereby reducing competition.
ECTAA noted that its complaint follows years of failed negotiations with IATA to modernize its air ticket distribution program. It will be interesting to see whether the Commission will examine this case, and if ECTAA’s complaint prompts IATA to reform its air ticket distribution program so as to avoid a full investigation, as happened 14 years ago when ECTAA complained against IATA before the Commission.