JetBlue and Spirit Airlines are firmly standing their ground against a consumer lawsuit aimed at blocking the airlines’ proposed $3.8 billion merger, with defense attorneys this week calling the case “vague” and “speculative” and calling for the courts to throw it out altogether. At the same time, defense lawyers asserted that the lawsuit’s aim was motivated more by money than the airline merger involving two of the country’s most recognizable carriers.
The latest filing in the consumer lawsuit was made in Massachusetts federal court, with attorneys for both airlines challenging the 25 plaintiffs that had filed last year to stop the deal. In their filing, the defense team argued that the consumer plaintiffs’ “generalized” claim that the merger will harm them as air travelers isn’t enough to sustain a challenge against a specific merger.
Furthermore, the defense team for JetBlue and Spirit Airlines heavily denounced the combined plaintiffs’ legal team, claiming that despite years of fighting in court to block airline mergers, the team had, “not once have they prevailed, but they have accepted monetary settlements.” The defense lawyers contend that the consumer lawsuit, “is fundamentally about money.”
The majority of the plaintiffs involved in this consumer lawsuit are either presently employed or previously worked in the travel industry, and they allege that the ‘elimination of Spirit will further substantially threaten to harm U.S. passengers.’ However, according to JetBlue and Spirit’s legal counsel, the legal expert they rely upon, “offers zero evidence” of the potential harm posed to travel agents.
Attorneys for the two airlines further asserted that, “harm from mergers generally is not the same as alleging specific harm from this proposed transaction.”
When the JetBlue-Spirit deal was announced in July 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) alleged that it was “presumptively illegal” and would “lead to higher fares and fewer seats, harming millions of consumers on hundreds of routes.” JetBlue and Spirit have since disputed the government’s claim and similar allegations in the private case, contending that the deal would force larger carriers “to compete harder to win the business of American consumers.”
The antitrust case by the DOJ is still pending before Judge William Young in Boston federal court. A bench trial will commence on October 16, 2023. With the consumer case in the hands of the court, both JetBlue and Spirit are holding onto the sentiment that a successful merger would be beneficial for the country’s airline industry as a whole.
“JetBlue and Spirit Airlines are confident that the courts will dismiss the consumer lawsuit,” said JetBlue lawyer Sarita Dilip, “this merger intends to bring prices and services to consumers all over the nation that would not be previously available without it.”
The federal case filed in Massachusetts may give insight into the U.S. Justice Department and the attorney general’s opinion on the airline merger, and many parties are watching closely. Should the court find in favor of dismissing the case, it could be a major victory for the airlines and the larger airline industry worldwide.