Skift Take

The Justice Department will have its day in court to argue why American Airlines and JetBlue's partnership is bad for consumers. Both airlines — naturally — are confident they will win.

A U.S. judge on Thursday said that the U.S. Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit against American Airlines and JetBlue Airways would go forward.

A trial in the case has been set for September 26.

In its lawsuit filed in September in Boston, the government asked Judge Leo Sorokin to order the airlines to end their “Northeast Alliance” partnership, saying it would lead to higher fares in busy Northeastern airports.

The agreement allows American and JetBlue to sell each other’s flights in their New York-area and Boston networks and link frequent flyer programs, giving them more muscle to compete with United Airlines and Delta Air Lines in the Northeast.

The alliance was announced in July 2020 and approved by the U.S. Transportation Department shortly before the end of the Trump administration.

American and JetBlue denied wrongdoing and asked Sorokin to dismiss the lawsuit.

JetBlue said that it believed the Northeast Alliance delivered significant benefits to consumers. “We are confident the court will rule in our favor after we present the facts this September,” the company said in a statement.

American said it looks “forward to the opportunity to demonstrate the significant consumer benefits and increased competition enabled by the Northeast Alliance.”

American Airlines Chief Executive Robert Isom said last week he was confident they would prevail. “What we’ve been able to do is really come together and offer a product that is a true third competitor,” Isom said.

The lawsuit was considered a signal that the Biden administration was determined to inject more competition into the airline industry, where American and three other airlines control 80 percent of the domestic market.

JetBlue is separately pursuing a hostile takeover of Spirit Airlines, which has a deal to merge with Frontier. Spirit has urged JetBlue to drop the Northeast Alliance if it wanted to pursue a tie-up, but JetBlue has declined.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Additional reporting by David Shepardson Editing by Nick Zieminski)

This article was written by Diane Bartz and David Shepardson from Reuters and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].

November 16, 2022
Dallas-Fort Worth, TX and Online
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Tags: american airlines, jetblue airways, justice department

Photo credit: American and JetBlue will defend their alliance in a trial set to begin in September. Sean Davis / Flickr