The JetBlue-Spirit Airlines merger, already under scrutiny by federal regulators, is the target of a lawsuit that seeks to kill the planned transaction.
The merger, which would eliminate Spirit, will hurt air travel throughout the country, the lawsuit alleges, and especially at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood and Orlando international airports, where both airlines vigorously compete. Nineteen routes overlap in Fort Lauderdale and 12 in Orlando.
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Spirit, which is headquartered in Broward County, is the No. 1 carrier at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International with a 30% market share. Jet Blue is the number two carrier with 19% market share, which means, between the two carriers, about half of all passengers use either airline. By comparison, Spirit’s market share at nearby Palm Beach International is less than 1%; Jet Blue, at 27%, is the number one carrier.
“Orlando and Fort Lauderdale would be especially hurt,” said Joseph Alioto, the lead attorney for a group of travelers and travel agents who filed an antitrust federal lawsuit in December in the Northern District of California that challenges the merger and seeks an injunction to block it.
“The whole point is for JetBlue to save money, and they will do it by eliminating flights and by raising prices,” Alioto said.