ValuJet is pressing its antitrust case against Delta Air Lines despite failing to stop its rival from buying 10 coveted slots at New York/LaGuardia pending the outcome of its lawsuit.

Atlanta-based ValuJet claims it was the sole bidder for the slots when TWA initially offered them and that Delta made a higher eleventh hour bid only after it learned of ValuJet's plans. When ValuJet filed the suit and sought a preliminary injunction, the judge was unwilling to rule on the basis of a voice mail message that ValuJet had a binding contract with TWA to buy the slots. Judge Tidwell said he was 'troubled' by allegations that Delta was trying to keep its low cost nemesis out of LaGuardia, but could not rule that Valujet's antitrust allegations should prevail.

President of ValuJet, Lewis Jordan, has warned that this was just the first of a series of legal challenges. ValuJet has since amended its complaint to focus more on the antitrust allegations rather than on its claim of a contract with TWA. The St Louis-based carrier is still a defendant, but the thrust of ValuJet's claim is that Delta is monopolising the Atlanta-La Guardia route.

Delta denies any monopoly since its major rivals, United and American, hold slots at Atlanta and LaGuardia. How- ever, Delta is the only carrier operating on the route. It also defends its high yields on the grounds that travellers who fly at short notice to New York prefer LaGuardia's proximity to the city over JFK or Newark.

ValuJet's complaints have prompted at least two government inquiries. Both the US Departments of Justice and Transportation are conducting informal investigations.

David Knibb

Source: Airline Business