California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced that California has joined a multistate coalition led by the U.S. Department of Justice (U.S. DOJ) in a lawsuit challenging the proposed merger of Spirit and JetBlue airlines. The suit alleges that the proposed merger violates the Clayton Act because it may substantially lessen competition. It is the second antitrust lawsuit filed against JetBlue in recent years. In September 2021, Attorney General Bonta joined the U.S. DOJ and six other attorneys general in filing a lawsuit against American Airlines and JetBlue challenging an anticompetitive joint venture between the companies known as the Northeast Alliance.
“Fewer flights. More expensive tickets. Lower quality service. That’s what happens when competition is eliminated from the market for air travel,” said Attorney General Bonta. “As the People’s Attorney, I am committed to fighting for a fair and competitive economy – and I won’t stand by when a proposed merger threatens to further eliminate consumer choice and drive up prices. We need more options and higher standards, not less.”
Both Sprit and JetBlue compete with the nations’ largest four airlines. JetBlue and Spirit compete head-to-head in the routes that both companies serve. If the proposed merger were approved, JetBlue would eliminate Spirit, its largest and fastest growing competitor in the low fare segment, reducing available seats and leading to an increase in fares.
Consumers saw the impact of airline consolidation on price and quality first-hand following the American-U.S. Air merger and Alaska Airline’s acquisition of Virgin America. JetBlue’s plan would further eliminate competition by removing from the market a competitor that causes other airlines to lower their fares. Tens of millions of travelers will face higher fares and fewer options. This includes travelers in California, particularly on the Los Angeles to Miami route.
California joins the lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, District of Columbia, Massachusetts, and New York on March 7, 2023. Along with California, Maryland, and New Jersey are also joining the lawsuit in the amended complaint filed today.
A copy of the amended complaint can be found here.
As many families feel the burden of inflation and higher prices, Attorney General Bonta continues to advocate for consumers by advancing important legislation and fighting to defend consumers from anticompetitive practices. On February 14, Attorney General Bonta announced his sponsorship of SB 478, which would prohibit in California the practice of hiding mandatory fees, also known as junk fees. Attorney General Bonta moves forward in his efforts to protect price competition, with a lawsuit against Amazon filed in September 2022 alleging the company engaged in unlawful, anticompetitive contracting practices that thwart the ability of online retailers to compete, contributing to Amazon’s dominance in the online retail marketplace and harming merchants and consumers through inflated fees and higher prices. In 2021, Attorney General Bona filed a lawsuit against Google for monopolizing the smartphone application market in violation of state and federal antitrust laws.