WASHINGTON (Reuters) -American Airlines and JetBlue Airways Corp asked a U.S. judge on Monday to dismiss an antitrust lawsuit filed by the Justice Department and six states over the company’s “Northeast Alliance” partnership.
The suit filed in September alleges the deal would lead to higher fares in busy northeastern U.S. airports and seeks to unwind the alliance. The airlines said Monday the alliance has been in place for nine months but the suit does “not allege that it has caused a single higher price, any reduction in quality or the slightest reduction in output.”
The Justice Department declined to comment on Monday. The government and airlines on Friday backed a proposed trial date of September 2022 but that schedule has not yet been approved by a U.S. judge.
The partnership was announced in July 2020 and approved by the U.S. Transportation Department (DOT) shortly before the end of the Trump administration. The Justice Department said the alliance would cost consumers hundreds of millions of dollars.
The airlines argue the Justice Department and states should allow the alliance to continue to prove itself in the market. They note their commitments to expansion, oversight and measures to address possible anticompetitive effects.
The suit also signals the Biden administration’s interest in greater competition where American and three other airlines control 80% of the domestic air market.
The agreement allows American and JetBlue to sell each other’s flights in their New York-area and Boston networks and link frequent flyer programs in a move aimed at giving them more muscle to compete with United Airlines and Delta Air Lines in the Northeast.
The Justice Department complaint said the partnership at least partially removed JetBlue as a disruptive maverick that would work to drive down prices.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)