The Justice Department is likely to sue to block a pending $3.8 billion merger between JetBlue and Spirit airlines, five people with knowledge of the matter told POLITICO.
It’s the latest anti-monopoly move by the Biden administration, which has also shown increasing interest in policing air travel.
The department could file suit as soon as March, some of the people said, though they cautioned that the investigation is ongoing and no final decision has been made. People in the DOJ’s antitrust division have competing opinions about whether to bring a case, according to some of the people interviewed.
If the department goes ahead, a suit would come at a time of immense upheaval for the airline industry, including the December debacle in which Southwest Airlines canceled more than 16,000 flights during the Christmas holidays. That episode helped stoke anger from consumers and regulators, amid complaints that decades of mergers have left passengers at the mercy of a monolithic airline industry.
Federal antitrust regulators have taken a harder line against a range of powerful businesses under President Joe Biden, including a recent DOJ lawsuit aimed at breaking up Google’s advertising business and the Federal Trade Commission’s unsuccessful attempt to stop Facebook’s parent from buying a fitness app.