JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes was the first witness in the trial in federal district court in Boston over the federal government’s antitrust lawsuit against American and JetBlue.
The government argued that the deal is, in effect, a merger that will cost consumers $700 million a year in higher fares. It said JetBlue’s pending purchase of Spirit Airlines will make matters even worse for travelers.
. The airlines are coordinating schedules and sharing revenue from flights in the Northeast, including New York-area airports.
Hayes was quizzed about his own previous statements criticizing joint ventures involving other airlines and a 2019 comment that the airline industry “has never been more concentrated than it is today,” which he said led to higher fares and poor service.
Hayes testified that regulators had not imposed enough limits on those deals. He contrasted them with the pact between American and JetBlue, which he said involved no cooperation on setting prices.
In another 2019 memo, an American Airlines executive vowed that his company would fight JetBlue for supremacy in Boston — even using a metaphor of swinging baseball bats.
“We know how the story ends,” said William Jones, the lead attorney for the Justice Department. “Rather than continuing to slug it out, American and JetBlue decided to collaborate rather than to continue competing.”
Lawyers for American and JetBlue countered that the government has presented no evidence that their alliance — in place for 18 months now, since it was blessed by the outgoing Trump administration — has harmed consumers or resulted in higher fares. They said that it has allowed the airlines to add 50 new routes and create a stronger competitor to Delta and United.
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