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JetBlue has estimated that its ticket prices will increase by 30 percent if Spirit is no longer a competitor. The New York-based airline came to this conclusion after an internal analysis, according to Reuters. The U.S. Department of Justice cited these findings on the first day of a federal antitrust trial attempting to block JetBlue’s $3.8 billion acquisition of Spirit Airlines.
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JetBlue has taken the stance that the merger will allow the carrier to challenge the four largest airlines in the United States: American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines. JetBlue attorney Ryan Shores claimed at trial that the Big Four control 80 percent of the domestic market, a figure that doesn’t align with data from the U.S. Department of Transportation. According to USDOT, the Big Four have a 67.7 market share, still a strong majority.
Shores argued that the federal government allowed previous mergers that allowed the Big 4 to establish market dominance, like United’s 2010 merger with Continental Airlines. However, two wrongs don’t make a right. A JetBlue-Spirit merger would so clearly hurt airline passengers that even JetBlue itself realized that.
Justice Department attorney Arianna Markel stated that JetBlue internal analysis discovered that the merger could cost passengers $1 billion per year. Markel said, “JetBlue is counting on the fact that eliminating Spirit and the competition Spirit provides will allow JetBlue to raise fares. That is real harm to real people.”
Throughout this antitrust trial, JetBlue will portray itself as a minnow trying to take on mammoths, but a merger with Spirit will likely create another monster in the process. No matter what your opinion about Spirit Airlines is, losing the ultra-low-cost carrier from the marketplace will do far more harm than good.