JetBlue Airways has agreed to buy Spirit Airlines for $3.8 billion and create the nation’s fifth-largest airline if the deal can win approval from antitrust regulators.
The agreement Thursday capped a months-long bidding war and arrives one day after Spirit’s attempt to merge with fellow budget carrier Frontier Airlines fell apart.
Spirit CEO Ted Christie is being thrust into the awkward position of defending a sale to JetBlue after arguing vehemently against it, saying that antitrust regulators would never let it happen.
“A lot has been said over the last few months obviously, always with our stakeholders in mind,” Christie said on CNBC. “We have been listening to the folks at JetBlue, and they have a lot of good thoughts on their plans for that.”
JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes has argued all along that a larger JetBlue would create more competition for the four airlines that control about 80% of the U.S. market — American, United, Delta and Southwest.
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