A federal judge has moved to stop JetBlue’s plans to join with ultra-low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines, which is a big setback for its acquisition plans.
The decision, which came from a case against unfair competition brought by the Justice Department, makes it very unlikely that the deal will be able to close by the due date.
JetBlue told regulators in a new report that the merger deal could end if certain conditions were not met by the due date.
Both airlines are going to appeal the decision, but Spirit said there is “no basis” to stop the deal. The difference shows how complicated the legal issues are that the deal faces.
The decision puts even more heat on JetBlue because the deal has to be done by February 15. Even though Spirit is still optimistic, JetBlue’s tone suggests that legal issues have made it less likely that the merger will be completed on time.
The companies now have less time than they had before the judge’s decision. The already short time frame is even more difficult to meet. The risks are very high because JetBlue has hinted that the deal may not go through.
Win for Trustbusters
The ruling is a win for the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department, which sued to stop the deal because they thought it would cause fares to go up. The case shows that the Biden government is paying more attention to mergers in the economy as a whole.
In the flight industry in particular, officials are worried that consolidation could hurt customers. This case will set a standard for how far the government can go in stopping deals that are thought to be hurting competition.
It looks like a court case that was supposed to last until 2023 may now end sooner. Both sides will be rushing to file appeals in an effort to change the judge’s decision.
Each will have to make important decisions in the next few days that could make or break the deal. They will have to do this while handling a lot of complicated laws and rules.
Spirit shareholders can’t sell their shares at a much higher price as planned because of the ruling. And for customers, it makes them less sure about how the market will change in the future.
Analysts think that if the merger fails, there will be heated fare wars again, which have been good for flyers. But some say that merging is needed because costs are going up so fast.
It’s not just the two companies that are at stake. The result will help set the tone for Biden’s antitrust agenda, and it will affect how deals are judged in the future.
Now, everyone is watching what JetBlue and Spirit do next in court. How they react in the next few days will determine whether this hugely important airline merger goes through or stays on hold indefinitely.