The Department of Justice of the United States filed an antitrust lawsuit on Tuesday to try to block the purchase of the low-cost airline Spirit by the also airline JetBlue.
The announcement, made this Tuesday at a press conference by the US Attorney General, Merrick Garland, comes after various US media advanced that the government of Democrat Joe Biden would try to prevent the merger.
“Suppressing the competition between JetBlue and Spirit (…) would eliminate Spirit’s unique and disruptive role in the industry and would do significant harm to consumers,” said the head of the Justice portfolio.
The US believes that the purchase of the low-cost airline for US$3.8 billion would have a negative impact on travelers, who would see their flight offer reduced while the price of airline tickets would increase.
In this sense, Garland recalled that Spirit’s own board told its shareholders that JetBlue’s plan to reconfigure flights would result in “a decrease in capacity and increase prices for consumers.”
The attorney general argued that the merger would take place “against the backdrop of an already highly concentrated aviation industry.”
The Department of Transportation, headed by Pete Buttigieg, has faced widespread criticism for its management of the air transport system, following waves of flight delays and cancellations that the country experienced throughout 2022.
Buttigieg himself has vowed to take action against airlines if they fail to take action to protect consumers, most recently in the case of Southwest Airlines and its spate of Christmas flight cancellations.
According to data from the Department of Justice, the four largest airlines in the United States – American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines – control 80% of the market.
JetBlue’s purchase of Spirit would make the latter the fifth largest airline in the country.
Spirit announced last July that it would accept JetBlue’s offer, despite previously raising concerns about the potential acquisition due to the airline’s alliance with American Airlines in the Northeast US, and the Department of Justice also tries to block.