U.S. bid to scrub American-JetBlue partnership goes to judge: Travel Weekly

Airline lawyers and the Justice Department delivered starkly contrasting views of an alliance between American Airlines and JetBlue during closing arguments Friday in a case that will test the Biden administration’s aggressive enforcement of antitrust laws.

The partnership lets American and JetBlue coordinate schedules and share revenue on many routes to and from New York and Boston, which the government argued will cost consumers hundreds of millions of dollars a year in higher fares.

“It is a very important case to us … because of those families that need to travel and want affordable tickets and good service,” DOJ lawyer Bill Jones said in federal district court in Boston.

Lawyers for the airlines said the partnership has spawned new routes that are good for travelers. They argued that during a monthlong trial, the government failed to show any evidence that the deal has hurt consumers.
“It’s all just an idea,” said Daniel Wall, a lawyer for American.

When attorneys closed their arguments, U.S. District Judge Leo Sorokin said he is still reading hundreds of pages of material submitted this week by both sides. A decision is likely weeks away.

The government’s case is intuitive — that two big airlines working together instead of competing will reduce choices for consumers and lead to higher fares. The lawsuit, joined by six states and the District of Columbia, is also speculative, however.

The case will come down to the judge’s reading of antitrust law and his judgment about whether the government presented enough evidence to kill the partnership, which the airlines have been rolling out since early 2021.

The trial featured testimony by current and former airline CEOs and economists who differed wildly on the impact that the alliance will have on competition and ticket prices.

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