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JetBlue, Spirit vow to appeal judge’s decision to block merger

JetBlue Airways and Spirit Airlines vowed to appeal a judge’s decision to stop the two airlines’ merger Friday.

The airlines filed a notice of appeal to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, they said in a Friday statement. A federal judge blocked the $3.8 billion purchase of Spirit by JetBlue Tuesday and said it would “substantially lessen competition,” violating the Clayton Act, which “was designed to prevent anticompetitive harms for consumers.”

“If JetBlue were permitted to gobble up Spirit — at least as proposed — it would eliminate one of the airline industry’s few primary competitors that provides unique innovation and price discipline,” U.S. District Judge William Young wrote.

“It would further consolidate an oligopoly by immediately doubling JetBlue’s stakeholder size in the industry. Worse yet, the merger would likely incentivize JetBlue further to abandon its roots as a maverick, low-cost carrier,” Young added.

JetBlue said it was necessary to buy up the smaller airline to be more competitive with larger airlines, per The Associated Press.

The Justice Department had sued to stop the merger, with Attorney General Merrick Garland saying last March that “If allowed to proceed, this merger will limit choices and drive up ticket prices for passengers across the country” and “eliminate Spirit’s unique and disruptive role in the industry.”

President Biden praised the judge’s decision to block the merger Tuesday and said it benefited consumers. Encouraging competition is a key platform for the president’s economic plan to lower inflation.

“Capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism – it’s exploitation,” Biden said in a statement. “Today’s ruling is a victory for consumers everywhere who want lower prices and more choices. My Administration will continue to fight to protect consumers and enforce our antitrust laws.”

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