The Justice Department argued that the deal would lead to increased fares for price-sensitive consumers.
JetBlue-Spirit Merger Blocked
The proposed $3.8 billion acquisition aimed to create the fifth-largest airline in the country, enhancing competitiveness against larger rivals like Delta and United.
In his decision, U.S. District Court Judge William Young expressed concerns about JetBlue converting Spirit’s planes to its layout and imposing higher fares, potentially harming cost-conscious travelers. The ruling represents a success for the Justice Department, which has actively opposed deals seen as anticompetitive.
The lawsuit claimed that the acquisition would result in higher fares for “tens of millions” of passengers by eliminating Spirit and about half of all ultra-low-cost airline seats in the industry.
Following the decision, Spirit shares experienced a significant drop of 60%, while JetBlue shares fluctuated between gains and losses.
The ruling has placed New York-based JetBlue in a position of uncertainty, requiring incoming CEO Joanna Geraghty to navigate the airline in a new direction. Geraghty was designated as the successor to CEO Robin Hayes, who announced his retirement earlier in the month.
Judge Called it Anti-Competitive
JetBlue contended that acquiring access to Spirit’s fleet of Airbus planes would facilitate rapid growth, addressing shortages of planes and pilots and enhancing competitiveness against larger carriers.
The airline, operating in densely congested airspace, aimed to leverage Spirit to gain access to additional routes and travelers. The decision disrupts JetBlue’s plans for expansion and a shift toward a full-service model by remodeling Spirit’s yellow planes.
Despite the proposed changes, Judge Young emphasized that the merger would eliminate competition between Spirit and JetBlue, impacting cost-conscious travelers who rely on Spirit’s low fares.
In recent years, Spirit has achieved substantial growth by offering affordable fares and charging fees for various services, from seat assignments to carry-on luggage.
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