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American Airlines wins $5.1 million verdict against Sabre in antitrust trial

A federal jury in New York awarded American Airlines $5.1 million on Tuesday in an antitrust trial against the travel technology company Sabre Corp.

The lawsuit, which was originally filed by US Airways in 2011, alleged that Southlake-based Sabre violated antitrust laws and forced US Airways to sign a contract that prevented the carrier from providing airfares to travel agents through direct connections that did not involve Sabre’s global distribution system. The suit says the contract also kept the airline from offering discount fares directly to consumers on its website.

“We have long contended that the contractual provisions at issue — provisions that Sabre has made a condition to participate in its global distribution system — have reinforced Sabre’s market power, stymied competition, and harmed us and the travelers we serve,” American said in a statement. “Now that the jury has agreed with us, we hope to see changes in the way our services are sold, and we expect technology and innovation will create even better and more transparent ways for us to distribute our products.”

US Airways merged with American Airlines in 2013, but the suit moved forward, culminating in an eight-week jury trial in New York that concluded this week. American settled a similar but separate lawsuit against Sabre in 2012.

Sabre, which started as part of American in the 1960s and spent part of the last decade as a privately held company, said it plans to appeal the jury verdict, which could be tripled to $15 million under federal antitrust laws.

“We continue to believe we operated fairly and lawfully in an extremely competitive marketplace as Sabre provides efficient distribution, innovative technology and transparency that benefits suppliers, travel agents and consumers alike,” Sabre said in a statement. “Sabre believes it acted lawfully and fairly, and we do not anticipate any impact to existing offerings. In the meantime, we will continue to work with American Airlines, focusing our efforts on helping them drive business success with smart technology.”

The verdict was announced after the stock markets closed for the day. Shares of Sabre (ticker: SABR) closed at $25.15, down 35 cents, while shares of American (ticker: AAL) closed up 65 cents at $49.23.

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk