A US district judge in New York has scheduled US Airways' antitrust case against Sabre Holdings to go to bench trial on October 26.
Sabre had instead sought a jury trial, which might have worked against US Airways. Jurors are more likely to be biased against an airline, which they have encountered, than a ticketing middleman they have not.
Judge Lorna Shofield acknowledged as much in a June hearing:
"Losing the right to a jury trial is prejudicial to Sabre."
To balance things out, Shofield insisted that US Airways permanently drop its damage requests (which could have reached as high as $487 million, after trebling) -- even if it loses its case.
US Airways had originally requested the option to renew its damages claim after trial if it lost. The judge said no.
US Airways has agreed to that concession. It is now seeking only declaratory relief, which means, more or less, that it is just trying to prove Sabre was in the wrong.
If the airline wins the case this autumn, that decision might open up other litigation or contract renegotiation that could be financially beneficial for the airline and harmful to all three of the GDSs.
In the four-year old case, US Airways, now owned by American Airlines Group, accuses Sabre of abusing its market power.
Sabre is one of three global distribution systems (GDS), besides Amadeus and Travelport, that distribute tickets to agents and other parties,
In pre-trial arguments, Sabre has conceded that it has the largest market share in North America of the GDSs.
But it argues, among other things, that its scale brings enough efficiencies and other benefits to the airlines, to the agencies, and to the consumer, and it says that its fees are justified and not extortionate.
US Airways will attempt to prove that Sabre charges inflated prices for the services it provides and that it has colluded to prevent the airlines from developing competitive alternatives as well as insist on contract provisions that violate US antitrust law.
Sabre denies any wrongdoing.
In 2012, American Airlines settled out of court for a similar case against Sabre years ago, with Tnooz estimating the handshake costing $280 million. It has since continued to distribute inventory through Sabre.
INTERVIEW WITH US AIRWAYS' DEFENSE TEAM: US Airways to judge: We’ll accept $20 and Sabre’s antitrust guilt