Law360’s January 26 article “Antitrust Group Tells DOT JetBlue-American Deal Is No Good” covers AAI’s objection to the Department of Transportation’s review process of the proposed partnership between JetBlue and American Airlines.
From the article:
The American Antitrust Institute is adding its voice to the growing chorus of critics who say that the U.S. Department of Transportation didn’t look hard enough into a proposed partnership between JetBlue and American Airlines before giving the plan the thumbs-up.
Citing its competition concerns about the approval of the alliance, which it described as having been “pushed through with only 10 days remaining in the Trump administration,” the institute wrote to the DOT on Monday asking the agency to launch a public interest review of its own decision — and, ultimately, to retract it.
It was “highly irregular” of the DOT not to solicit public comment before making its decision to let the strategic partnership — which will see JetBlue and American “integrate networks” in a way that will allow them to share flights and offer mutual customer benefits — move forward, according to the antitrust group.
“Locking out public involvement in a critical enforcement decision is particularly egregious in light of massive consolidation in the domestic airline industry over the last two decades, and numerous concentrated airport hubs and nonstop and connecting markets,” the group said.
By cutting out the public, the DOT also missed out on varied feedback about the “complex” structural and behavioral remedies that the agency put on the table as a condition of the joint venture moving forward, according to the American Antitrust Institute.
Behavioral remedies — in this case, requirements preventing JetBlue from abandoning specific routes and blocking the two from communicating with each other on certain business matters — are hard to enforce and require extensive oversight and enforcement, the group said.