American Airlines and US Airways reiterated their request for a 12 November trial date today, in their response to a US Department of Justice (DOJ) request for a March 2014 date.
Using adjectives including "mischaracterise", "disregard" and "dismiss" to describe the DOJ's position, the airlines laid out both legal and financial reasons for their preferred trial date in the government's challenge of their proposed merger, in a filing with the US District Court for the District of Columbia.
"A trial delayed according to the plaintiffs' schedule would knock the bottom out of this merger," they say.
The DOJ requested a 3 March 2014 date, arguing that they need an extensive discovery and pretrial motion period, in a filing with the court on 27 August. They also cited previous precedents of such a delay, including the failed AT&T-T-Mobile merger.
American and US Airways say that the agency has already had 16 months to review a possible merger. They submitted a letter from Michael Billiel, an attorney in the transportation, energy and agricultural section of the DOJ's antitrust division, to Howard Kass, vice-president of legal and government affairs at US Airways, issuing a civil investigative demand to begin reviewing documents on a possible merger with American dated 20 April 2012.
The airlines publicly announced their plans to merge on 14 February and have said that they submitted official documents to the DOJ to begin its review in January.
They also cite the fact that the 166-days from challenge to trial for the AT&T-T-Mobile merger was due to a separate US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) review of the deal that had to be completed before the case could go to court. Such a review is not required for an airline merger.
In addition, American claims that it will incur an additional $65 million to $75 million in bankruptcy-related fees as well as delay possible new aircraft orders if it has to wait until a March 2014 trial.
"Two independent companies can be asked to stay in limbo for only so long before they need to make independent plans," say the airlines.
The DOJ did not comment on the response by press time.
All of the parties will meet with judge Coleen Kollar-Kotelly for a trial scheduling conference in Washington DC on 30 August.