Lawyers at American Airlines and US Airways are preparing to go to trial in response to the US Justice Department's (DOJ) challenge to the carriers' proposed merger.
"We're litigating this case, period," says Richard Parker, a partner at O'Melveny & Myers working on the case, during a media call today. He and other lawyers for the carriers say that they are willing to hear ideas from the DOJ to resolve the dispute but are working towards a court hearing.
This move is in line with the agency's own comments towards American and US Airways proposed merger. Asked on 13 August whether the DOJ would consider a settlement with the carriers, assistant attorney general in charge of the its antitrust division Bill Baer said that it would be willing to hear proposals from the carriers but was pushing to block the merger.
"We think the right solution here is a full-stop injunction," he said.
The DOJ and district attorneys from Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington DC filed a 56-page lawsuit challenging the merger with the US District Court for the District of Columbia on 13 August.
The suit alleges a significant reduction in competition, especially in connecting markets and at Washington National airport, and the fact that four airlines would control more than 80% of domestic air traffic in the USA - allowing for what Baer called "tacit coordination" between airlines - if the American-US Airways merger were to go through.
Lawyers for both carriers say that the points that the DOJ raises in its challenger are weak, for example citing the fact that connecting markets were not considered in the review of previous airline mergers.
"Of course there are any number of connecting flights that are at least theoretically competitive, but that's true of any airline transaction in the past," says Joe Sims, a partner at Jones Day representing American.
The legal team representing the carriers was unanimous in their belief that the merger will still go through, though they note that it will take longer than previously planned.
Wall Street analysts expect the case to go to trial within two to three months with a ruling coming before the 13 December expiration of American and US Airways' merger agreement.