American Airlines Wins Sabre Antitrust Verdict… And $1 In Damages

A federal jury on Thursday ruled in favor of American Airlines Group Inc. in its long-running lawsuit where the iconic airline accused flight booking service Sabre Corp of charging excessive fees and suppressing competition. The ruling, however, awarded the carrier only $1 in damages.

Jurors reached a verdict on their fifth day of deliberations, following a three-week trial in federal court in Manhattan.The antitrust case had originally been brought by US Airways in 2011, two years before it merged with Fort Worth, Texas-based American.

Sabre, based in Southlake, Texas, operates an electronic network used by travel agents to search for and book flights listed by airlines. The company’s stock value rose more than 3% in after-hours trading following the outcome, in what may be seen as a victory for the booking agent.

US Airways, which was acquired by AA, had alleged that Sabre impeded travel agents and others from using less expense alternatives for booking seats, and imposed an unduly restrictive distribution agreement. Jurors found that Sabre had indeed harmed the carrier by willfully maintaining monopoly power, but found a lack of proof that Sabre unreasonably restrained trade through the challenged contract.

“We are pleased and gratified with this landmark verdict,” American said in a statement. “We expect this decision to discourage further misconduct by Sabre and bring needed competition to airline distribution.”

Sabre said it was disappointed with the verdict on the monopolization claim, but that the $1 award was “commensurate with the evidence presented.” Sabre said it was pleased with the verdict on the distribution agreement.

American had won about $15.3 million from Sabre in a 2016 trial, but an appeals court overturned the award in 2019.

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