US antitrust lawsuit against US JetBlue moves forward
A United States Department of Justice lawsuit against the parent companies of American Airlines (AA, Dallas/Fort Worth) and JetBlue Airways (B6, New York JFK), American Airlines Group and JetBlue Airways Corp, will continue, a judge setting a trial date for September. 26.
The government has called the two carriers’ Northeast Alliance partnership – which allows them to sell each other’s flights across their networks in the Boston and New York area and links their frequent flyer programs – “a de facto merger” when the DOJ and attorneys general in six states (Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Florida, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Virginia) filed a lawsuit to block it last September.
The DOJ asked the court to order the airlines to cancel the agreement, which was signed in 2020 and implemented in January 2021, because it “eliminates competition in New York and Boston and harms air travelers across the country” with higher airfares. JetBlue and American responded by promising to continue to implement it, arguing that it helps to not harm consumers.
However, Judge Leo S Sorokin of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts denied their motion to dismiss the lawsuit, saying on June 9 that the U.S. government’s complaints were plausible, Bloomberg Law reported.
Related issues raised by airlines, such as the definition of the New York market and whether the North East Alliance would increase competition that would otherwise not be feasible, are best addressed through subsequent proceedings. , he advised.
“The complaint alleges – plausibly and in a way that is neither probative nor threadbare – that the disputed alliance between American and JetBlue is likely to harm competition in the relevant markets, and that American and JetBlue control a significant share of a already concentrated market,” Sorokin said.
JetBlue commented in a statement that “we are confident that the court will rule in our favor after presenting the facts in September”, while American Airlines said it “looks forward to the opportunity to demonstrate the significant benefits for consumers and the increased competition enabled by the Northeast Alliance.”