A US federal judge has sided with the Department of Justice (DOJ) by striking down a request by American Airlines and JetBlue Airways to dismiss a lawsuit against them.
The decision by judge Leo Sorokin with US District Court for the District of Massachusetts sets the stage for a trail scheduled for 26 November.
The DOJ sued American and JetBlue in September 2021, seeking to force the airlines to abandon their “Northeast Alliance”, a partnership involving flights at Boston and New York. The DOJ’s suit alleges that the partnership reduces competition in violation of antitrust laws.
On 9 June, judge Sorokin ruled against a request by the airlines to toss the suit.
In an order, Sorokin says the DOJ “plausibly” alleges that “the alliance… is likely to harm competition in the relevant markets, and that American and JetBlue control a significant share of an already concentrated market”.
American and JetBlue filed their request for dismissal in November 2021. They argued that the DOJ failed to prove the Northeast Alliance has actually harmed competition, or that American and JetBlue have sufficient market power to raise prices by cutting flights, court papers say.
American and JetBlue have been implementing their Northeast Alliance since announcing the pact in July 2020.
The agreement involves code-sharing and coordinating flight schedules. The airlines say joining forces will enable them to compete better against Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, which they say have better competitive positions in the New York air travel market.