Justice Department to Block JetBlue-Spirit Merger

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Antitrust enforcers are prepping a lawsuit to halt the merger.

Back in 2022, discount air travel service Spirit Airlines put themselves up for auction, seeking a stronger company to merge with. The ultimate winner of the bidding war was carrier JetBlue, who announced that they would be acquiring Spirit in its entirety for $3.8 billion.

However, antitrust watchdog organizations and the US Department of Justice have expressed discontent with the burgeoning deal, saying that many lower-income flyers depend on Spirit’s lower air rates. In the event of the acquisition, these lower rates could disappear which, alongside the general loss of a major airline carrier, would prove problematic for the industry overall. To this end, lawyers from the Department of Justice are prepping a lawsuit to block the merger.

In a response to the announcement of the lawsuit, JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes told CBS that while the Justice Department’s announcement is unfortunate, it is not outside the company’s expectations. “We said when we got the offer approved by the Spirit shareholders last year that we didn’t think we would close ’til the first half of 2024, you know, expecting a trial,” he said.

Hayes attempted to assuage anticompetitive concerns, saying the merger is not “Pepsi buying Coke.”

“JetBlue and Spirit together will be 8% or 9%” of the country’s air travel, he said. “Most people are still going to be flying on the other airlines. That’s where you’re going to save the really big dollars — by having a bigger JetBlue.”

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