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US Judge Rules Against Expedia in United Airlines Dangerous Lawsuit

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A federal judge in Manhattan on Friday rejected Expedia Inc.'s request for an order that would have required United Airlines to continue delivering airline price data after September 30, when the company's contract ended.

FILE PHOTO: A United Airlines electronic departure table is depicted inside the terminal at Newark International Airport in New Jersey, July 22, 2014. REUTERS / Eduardo Munoz / File Photo

U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel said Expedia had shown a "likelihood of success" on the benefits of breach of contract liability, but did not show the need for a preliminary order to avoid irreparable damage or public interest.

A ban would have required United, part of Chicago-based United Continental Holdings Inc, to offer Expedia with ticket prices and scheduling information for all its publicly available flights, including those after September 30.

"We welcome the government of the judge in favor of United who will minimize the risk of disrupting customer travel plans and ensuring that we can effectively serve customers who need to make changes to their itineraries purchased through Expedia," United said in an email. 19659004] Expedia did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The dispute came as some carriers attempt to reduce distribution costs by encouraging travelers to book directly rather than through online travel agencies such as Bellevue, Washington-based Expedia.

Southwest Airlines Co has long relied on direct orders, and JetBlue Airways Corp. in October 2017 withdrew its prizes from several online agencies.

Expedia accused United of trying to force a renegotiation of the 2011 contract by threatening to keep tariffs for flights after 30. September, so that it can not order or change tickets.

United opposed the term Subsequent price entries would benefit travelers flying later because companies' "upcoming divorce" would leave Expedia unable to service them.

In his decision, Castel found no language in the contract between Expedia and United, suggesting that United would withhold price information in recent months, and no evidence that Expedia would be able to serve customers through 30. September.

But He also found no evidence that maintaining the "contract status quo" would harm Expedia, even though the dispute led to confusion on the customer and damaged his reputation.

Castel also said that the public interest did not weigh in favor of a provisional order.

"There is no serious question about the possibility of members of the public flying on their airline," he wrote. "Significant and prominent disclosure will reduce public harm."

The case is Expedia Inc. against United Airlines Inc, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 19-01066.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Richard Chang and Tom Brown

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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