Justice Department Wins Lawsuit to End JetBlue and American Airlines Partnership
A judge sided with the U.S. Justice Department on Friday, ruling against the Northeast Alliance between American Airlines with JetBlue Airways Corp. The judge said that the airlines’ partnership violates antitrust law.
The lawsuit, filed in September 2021, alleged that the airlines’ alliance was effectively a merger that would hurt consumers by driving up fares. The trial began a year later in Boston and wrapped up in December of last year.
“Whatever the benefits to American and JetBlue of becoming more powerful—in the northeast generally or in their shared rivalry with Delta—such benefits arise from a naked agreement not to compete with one another,” Judge Leo Sorokin wrote in his ruling, as reported by CNBC. “Such a pact is just the sort of ‘unreasonable restraint on trade’ the Sherman Act was designed to prevent.”
The judge ordered the two airlines to end the partnership within 30 days after the ruling, but JetBlue and American will likely appeal the decision.
Airlines have already sold tickets for the busy summer travel season. So undoing the partnership will prove difficult, especially during the time frame required by the court.
The Justice Department also filed a separate antitrust lawsuit earlier this year to block JetBlue’s proposed acquisition of budget carrier Spirit Airlines.