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October 31, 2012

American, Sabre reach settlement in anti-trust trial

American Airlines and Southlake-based Sabre Holdings announced Wednesday morning that they have reached a settlement in its anti-trust trial.

The two companies said they have renewed their current distribution agreement for multiple years and American has agreed to negotiate with Sabre for additional technology services.

At issue were the fees American and other airlines pay the big travel reservation systems to display flights and make bookings. American wants more of its travel partners, such as travel agencies and websites, to connect directly to American's reservation system through a service called Direct Connect, which would save the airline booking fees.

As part of the settlement, Sabre will pay American an unspecified monetary payment while American will continue to market its Direct Connect software to travel agents.

The terms of the settlement were not disclosed and need to be approved by the court.

The dispute started in late 2010 when American pulled its fares off Orbitz, one of the largest travel websites, because it would not use Direct Connect. Expedia, another big travel site, then dropped American's flight information.

Sabre joined the fracas in January 2011, making it harder to find American's fares in its system, raising booking fees and announcing that it would not renew American's contract when it expired. A temporary injunction was issued in American's favor, and the two sides reached an agreement that keeps American's fares in Sabre's system until 14 days after the trial is completed.

American said it lost $153 million in revenue during January and February 2011 when the Sabre system made it harder for travel agents to find its fares. The carrier was seeking almost $1 billion in damages from lost bookings, and potential losses of bookings that could have been made through American's own system.

-Andrea Ahles



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