American Airlines gets favorable antitrust verdict, and $1 in damages

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FILE PHOTO: An American Airlines aircraft lands at Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia

By Jonathan Stempel and Mike Scarcella

NEW YORK – A federal jury on Thursday ruled in favor of American Airlines Group Inc in its long-running lawsuit accusing flight booking service Sabre Corp of charging excessive fees and suppressing competition, but awarded the carrier just $1 in damages.

Jurors reached a verdict on their fifth day of deliberations, following a three-week trial in federal court in Manhattan.

Shares of Sabre rose more than 3% in after-hours trading.

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.

US Airways 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 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.

The case is US Airways Inc v. Sabre Holdings Corp, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, 11-02725.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel and Mike Scarcella in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler)