USDOT Statement on the Justice Department’s Lawsuit to Block Proposed JetBlue-Spirit Merger

March 9, 2023
The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) fully supports the Justice Department’s lawsuit under the Clayton Act to block the proposed JetBlue-Spirit merger.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) fully supports the Justice Department’s lawsuit under the Clayton Act to block the proposed JetBlue-Spirit merger. Robust airline competition makes it more it affordable to fly. Travelers depend on low-cost flight options to see the world, go home for the holidays, visit their family and friends, show up to help in an emergency, or travel at the last minute. The Justice Department found that the proposed merger violates the Clayton Act by eliminating the largest, most aggressive ultra-low-cost competitor, grounding Spirit’s most cost-conscious customers, and substantially reducing competition on a significant number of concentrated, overlapping routes that carry millions of passengers.

JetBlue and Spirit have filed a transfer application requesting that USDOT allow them to combine and operate their international routes under one certificate – the authorization required to provide air transportation. The two airlines also filed an exemption application asking USDOT to permit them to operate under common ownership prior to the requested transfer.

In light of the Justice Department’s pending litigation, USDOT plans to deny the exemption application. The Department will continue to separately investigate the transfer as part of its statutory public interest mandate and under its authority to enforce against unfair and deceptive practices and unfair methods of competition. The investigation will remain open for the duration of the proceeding.

Promoting competition is a key priority and mandate for USDOT and this Administration. The Department is also aggressively strengthening consumer protections to ensure that airlines aren’t competing in a race to the bottom. Recognizing that access is often a barrier to new and smaller competitors, USDOT is also looking at ways to combat anticompetitive tactics and open up the nation’s aviation infrastructure to ensure more players have an opportunity to compete.

Alejandro A. Alvarez/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS