Flyers Say JetBlue-Spirit Deal Case Not Done, Push For Win

The private plaintiffs challenging the failed JetBlue-Spirit merger indicated they’re not done despite the companies’ abandonment of the deal, pushing a Massachusetts federal court to grant them a win on their antitrust claims.

The plaintiffs told the court on Wednesday that the motion to dismiss filed by the two airlines is “ill-founded, relies on irrelevant cases and ignores clearly relevant controlling Supreme Court precedent,” seeking permission to file a motion for summary judgment.

The flyers seek permission to file a motion for summary judgment, saying it will allow the parties to move quickly to a final judgment in the case.

“Defendants could have properly expedited resolution of this case by consenting to judgment, given the admissions they have now made,” the plaintiffs said. “Instead, they are prolonging it in an attempt to prevent these individual passenger-plaintiffs from obtaining the judgment to which they are entitled in a case in which they have prevailed.”

JetBlue and Spirit, which abandoned their $3.8 billion merger earlier this month after the U.S. Department of Justice convinced a judge in the District of Massachusetts to block the deal, asked the court to dismiss the plaintiffs’ suit on Monday. They argued the abandonment of the merger and the final injunction barring it moots the claims, saying the plaintiffs can no longer show they suffered any injury.

The airlines made the same argument to the First Circuit earlier this week in a separate legal challenge by flyers, saying without the merger, there’s no active controversy for the appeals court to decide.

JetBlue and Spirit billed the merger as an opportunity for a low-cost carrier and an ultra-low-cost carrier to combine and create a competitive alternative to the four large airlines that dominate the air travel market, achieving their size with the blessing of the federal government.

However, state and federal regulators opposed the merger because it would reduce Spirit’s capacity for price-sensitive flyers. Following a multiweek bench trial, U.S. District Judge William G. Young agreed with the government and, in mid-January, blocked the deal. The airlines initially appealed the ruling but later announced the termination of the proposed merger.

The plaintiffs in the instant suit filed their private antitrust complaint in November 2022, seeking to block the merger because it would reduce competition and increase fares.

Joseph Alioto, who represents the plaintiffs, told Law360 his clients are entitled to recoup what they have paid in costs and attorney fees to litigate the suit, which he said has involved 40 depositions and an appeal.

“The idea is to make the plaintiffs whole,” Alioto said.

He added that a judgment could also be a safeguard against any future change in policy at the DOJ, which might not go after the airlines if they were to try to merge again.

Attorneys for Spirit and JetBlue did not respond to requests for comment Friday.

The plaintiffs are represented by Scott Gregory Herrman, Stephen G. Larson and Robert F. Ruyak of Larson LLP, Joseph M. Alioto Jr. and Joseph M. Alioto of the Alioto Law Firm, Josephine Alioto of The Veen Firm, Lawrence G. Papale of the Law Offices of Lawrence G. Papale, Jeffrey K. Perkins of the Law Offices of Jeffrey K. Perkins, Lingel H. Winters of the Law Offices of Lingel H. Winters, Christopher A. Nedeau of Nedeau Law PC, and Robert J. Bonsignore of Bonsignore Trial Lawyers PLLC.

Spirit is represented by Andrew C. Finch, Jay Cohen, Meredith R. Dearborn and Cole A. Rabinowitz of Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP.

JetBlue is represented by Ethan Glass and Elizabeth M. Wright of Cooley LLP.

The case is Garavanian et al. v. JetBlue Airways Corp. et al., case number 1:23-cv-10678, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

–Additional reporting by Bryan Dowling and Matthew Perlman. Editing by Drashti Mehta.

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