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Court sets June date to hear JetBlue, Spirit appeal against blocked merger

A U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston set a June date to hear the case by JetBlue and Spirit Airlines after their merger was blocked last month.

The companies hoped to have a date sooner, but an order released Friday said the court said the June deadline is firm and “extensions will be strongly disfavored.

The court ordered the airlines to file a pre-hearing brief by Feb. 26 with the Department of Justice (DOJ) filing its response by April 11.

The DOJ filed a lawsuit to block the merger in March 2023, saying it would reduce competition and consumers.

The merger would have made JetBlue the fifth-largest airline, and while the Spirit acquisition would have made it more competitive against the country’s other major airlines, it would have hurt its toughest competition, which is Spirit. It would have driven up prices for the country’s largest low-cost airline and would have hurt customers who relied on cheaper travel options.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said when announcing the lawsuit that if the merger were allowed to proceed, it would “limit choices and drive up ticket prices for passengers across the country” and would “eliminate Spirit’s unique and disruptive role in the industry.”

A federal district judge in Boston sided with the DOJ and blocked the deal, arguing that the merger violated the antitrust law.

Last week JetBlue warned that it might terminate the agreement, as Spirit continues to experience losses, The Associated Press reported.

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