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Partnership between American Airlines and JetBlue delayed before take-off

Two major American airlines have been stopped in their trek to seek a partnership. American Airlines is a major airline headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas and it is the world’s largest airline when measured by fleet size, scheduled passengers carried, and revenue passenger mile. [1] JetBlue Airways is a lower cost airline and is headquartered in the Long Island City neighborhood of the New York City borough of Queens. [2]

In July 2020, the partnership was announced and this was shortly before the end of the Trump administration. Therefore, the Justice Department said that the partnership would cost consumers hundreds of millions of dollars. A civil antitrust lawsuit was filed in September by the U.S. Department of Justice, six U.S. states and the District of Columbia to break up the carriers’ partnership. [3] An antitrust lawsuit is a type of class-action lawsuit which is filed by parties for claims of anticompetitive business practices which lead to unfair competition, price fixing or other types of fraud.[4] The potential alliance proclaimed that they would enable American and JetBlue to coordinate their schedules at Northeast airports in July 2020 and whilst the Transportation Department approved, the Justice Department opposed this in September. [5] The reasoning behind this lawsuit was that the alliance would cause competition to become eliminated between both airlines and gradually lead to “higher fares, fewer choices and lower quality service”, which came directly from the U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland’s statement in September.

On Monday 22nd November, both American Airlines and JetBlue Airways Corp pushed for a U.S. judge to dismiss the antitrust lawsuit filed. The airlines’ defence was that the alliance had been in place for nine months but the suit does “not allege that it has caused a single higher price, any reduction in quality or the slightest reduction in output.”[6] However, the Justice Department declined to comment on the situation on Monday. Another proposed trial date was scheduled for September 2022 but it is yet to seek the approval of a U.S. judge. The airlines have an urgency for the alliance to go through so that they can prove themselves and they note their commitments to expansion, oversight and measures to address possible anticompetitive effects. The lawsuit also signals the Biden administration’s interest in greater competition where American and three other airlines control 80% of the domestic air market. [5]

The carriers also said “The complaint is defective as a matter of law because plaintiffs have not alleged that the NEA has actually harmed competition”. They also made it clear that the alliance is not a merger and that it is not possible to infer adverse effects and that speculating that undefined harm will emerge in the future is not a viable reason for stopping this.


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