Travelport filed its response to an American Airlines lawsuit accusing the global distribution system provider of violating antitrust law, taking aim at the heart of the claims that Travelport has monopoly power.

“American’s complaint should be dismissed in full for failure to allege facts establishing a plausible market in which Travelport dominates,” the company says in its May 25 filing with the U.S. District Court in Fort Worth, Texas. “This failure infects each antitrust claim.”

The response carries weight beyond the lawsuit because the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) recently initiated an investigation of potential antitrust violations by GDS providers. Travelport owns the Worldspan, Galileo and Apollo GDSs, and its arguments against American’s lawsuit likely will mirror some of the arguments it and other GDS providers will make with the DOJ.

Another key indicator will come from Sabre’s response to a US Airways antitrust lawsuit that is similar to American’s but goes much further in alleging a conspiracy among several GDS providers. Sabre, however, has until June 13 to file its response in that case.

In its response to American's lawsuit, Travelport says one reason American’s monopoly claims fall flat is because it confines its definition of the distribution marketplace to GDS providers, ignoring direct sales by carriers that now account for a majority of the ticket sales in the U.S. Even within the GDS-only market, by American’s own account, Travelport’s share is “just” 34%, it adds. “As a matter of law, that is not nearly enough to state a claim of monopolization.”

American argues the GDS established a monopoly within its own set of customers by using contract terms and business models that keep an agency from switching to a different GDS. Those agencies provide vital access to corporate customers American cannot afford to lose, it says, eliminating any bargaining power American could create with a credible threat to pull out of the GDS.

In its response, Travelport says that argument is seriously flawed and disingenuous.

American, it argues, bases its monopolist claim by creating a “single-brand” market where Travelport is a monopolist by definition: Travelport services for travel agents who have decided to use Travelport.

“Every company is a monopolist in a product market comprised exclusively of its own sales of its own products to its current customers, and which excludes sales to customers that choose to buy from the company’s competitors,” Travelport says. Furthermore, to avoid “opportunistic litigation” courts historically “will not allow plaintiffs to plead a single-brand product market except in the rarest of circumstances,” it says.

American’s allegations of inordinate bargaining power for the GDS because of its exclusive access to a specific set of valuable customers does not rise to that level, Travelport adds.

“Stripped to its core, [American] states that Travelport is a valuable distributor and that losing Travelport as a distributor may cause a supplier to lose significant business. This in turn gives Travelport some degree of bargaining leverage,” it concedes.

But Travelport argues that “it is commonplace in our economy for manufacturers or suppliers to depend upon valued distributors to reach key customers.”

Travelport adds that “this is not a genuine antitrust action brought by consumers suffering from excessive or artificial price increases.” It is an opportunistic lawsuit brought by a large and powerful company seeking to enhance its already substantial commercial bargaining leverage.