A federal judge has issued a ruling that blocks the highly anticipated merger between JetBlue and Spirit Airlines. However, industry experts argue that this decision is actually beneficial for travelers.
Over the past two decades, airline mergers in the United States have resulted in the formation of the four major airlines that many people now prefer. However, low-cost carriers have also expanded their presence in the country, offering more affordable flight options for consumers. The existence of these low-cost carriers, such as Spirit Airlines, is crucial because competition is the primary reason why we have access to cheap flights.
Without the presence of low-cost carriers, the affordability of flights would have been severely impacted. This ruling prevents a detrimental blow to cheap flights as we currently know them.
JetBlue had announced its plans to acquire Spirit Airlines for $3.8 billion in 2022, a move that would have made it the fifth largest carrier in the United States. This is not the first time JetBlue has faced antitrust issues, as a judge previously ordered the airline to end its alliance with American Airlines. JetBlue chose not to appeal that decision.
The federal judge in Massachusetts deemed the merger unlawful due to antitrust violations, according to the Department of Justice. This ruling comes after a 17-day trial that began in October.
Attorney General Merrick Garland hailed the ruling as a victory for millions of travelers who would have faced higher fares and limited choices if the merger had been allowed to proceed. The Department of Justice remains committed to enforcing antitrust laws to protect American consumers.
JetBlue and Spirit Airlines expressed their disagreement with the ruling in a joint statement to Travel + Leisure. They maintain that their merger would have provided increased competition and choice, along with low fares and excellent service, to a wider range of customers and markets.