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Federal Judge Blocks JetBlue’s $3.8B Spirit Airlines Acquisition Over Anticompetitive Concerns

 |  January 16, 2024

In a significant legal setback for JetBlue Airways, a federal judge in Boston has blocked the airline’s proposed $3.8 billion purchase of budget rival Spirit Airlines.

The decision comes as a major victory for the Biden administration’s Justice Department, which had filed a lawsuit aiming to prevent the merger on grounds that it would lead to increased fares for price-sensitive consumers, reported NBC.

The planned acquisition, which would have created the country’s fifth-largest airline, was seen by JetBlue and Spirit as a strategic move to enhance their competitiveness against larger rivals such as Delta and United. However, the Justice Department argued that the deal would eliminate unique competition provided by Spirit, affecting about half of all ultra-low-cost airline seats and resulting in higher fares and limited options for millions of travelers.

The federal judge’s ruling underscores the Justice Department’s commitment to curbing anticompetitive practices in the airline industry. The decision sent shockwaves through the market, causing Spirit Airlines shares to plummet by 60%, while JetBlue shares experienced fluctuations between gains and losses.

Related: JetBlue & Spirit Airlines Antitrust Trial Date Set For October

Both JetBlue and Spirit Airlines have refrained from immediate comments on the court’s decision, leaving JetBlue, in particular, grappling with the next steps. The airline, headquartered in New York, had envisioned utilizing Spirit’s fleet of Airbus planes to facilitate rapid growth in the face of shortages in both planes and pilots.

JetBlue’s CEO succession has added a layer of complexity to the situation, with incoming CEO Joanna Geraghty now tasked with steering the airline on a new course. The decision poses a significant challenge for JetBlue, operating in congested airspace in cities like New York, as it had planned to leverage Spirit’s routes to expand its reach and customer base.

The airline’s original plan involved remodeling Spirit’s distinctive yellow planes to adopt a full-service model, aiming to provide passengers with an improved experience. The abrupt halt to the acquisition forces JetBlue to reconsider its strategy and explore alternative paths for growth and competitiveness in the dynamic aviation industry.

Source: CNBC