On the eve of the trial of its antitrust claims against Sabre Travel Network, American Airlines sought to reassure travel management companies and corporate accounts that they need not worry about the outcome.
In a letter to travel agencies, Derek DeCross, vice president of global sales for the carrier, said that “regardless of what happens before, during or after the trial, American fully intends to continue participating in Sabre to ensure no disruption of your ability to continue booking American flights.”
Jury selection in the Texas state court in Tarrant County began last week. Opening statements and the hearing of evidence are slated to begin on Oct. 22.
The case is expected to go to the jury on Dec. 11.
DeCross told agents that American expects to have a new agreement with Sabre in December, within 14 days after the resolution of its antitrust case against Sabre in a Texas state court.
Sabre and American have said previously that their current agreement will remain in place for 14 days after the conclusion of the trial, and DeCross seemed confident that a new agreement would be reached within that timeframe.
Sabre had nothing to say on that score.
In his letter, first reported by Tnooz, DeCross also indicated that American hasn’t given up on an out-of-court settlement.
“As we move towards the trial start date, American will continue to pursue a fair settlement with Sabre which addresses our claims in the lawsuit,” he told agents, adding that they would be “the first to know” of any important new developments.
Some observers who have followed the two companies’ pitched battle over the last two years believe a settlement is still the most likely outcome, even if it is reached on the courthouse steps.
Antitrust cases can be complex, and the outcomes are not easily predicted.
And despite the acrimony between American and Sabre, the former sister companies are, in a sense, stuck with each other.
American needs to reach Sabre’s customers, and Sabre needs to distribute the content of all major network airlines.
In its lawsuit, American charges that Sabre is “trying to unlawfully maintain its monopoly control over the provision of airline booking services” and that Sabre “has served as the ring leader in a classic hub-and-spoke conspiracy.”
American argues that Sabre controls access to corporate customers that are served by travel management companies that use the Sabre GDS.
Since 2009, American has pursued a “direct-connect” strategy, whereby it seeks to connect with travel management companies via an XML link developed by Farelogix.
Despite American’s assertions that it will provide access to its ancillary products and services to TMCs only through the XML link, it has not attracted many converts.
American claims that Sabre has intimidated subscribers who might otherwise opt for the direct link.
Sabre has filed counterclaims, but they are under seal.
American also has sued Sabre, Travelport and Orbitz Worldwide in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas, but that case has been stayed while Travelport and American attempt to resolve their differences through mediation.