DOJ sues to block JetBlue from buying Spirit

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STORY: The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit Tuesday to block JetBlue Airways from buying Spirit Airlines.

It's concerned about the possibility of higher airfares and fewer consumer choices.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said the planned 3.8-billion-dollar merger would put flying out of reach for many cost-conscious travelers.

"If not blocked, the merger of JetBlue and Spirit would result in higher fares and fewer choices for tens of millions of travelers across the country. The Justice Department is suing to prevent that from happening."

Spirit and JetBlue are pushing back.

The CEO of JetBlue said in a statement on Tuesday that the DOJ "has got it wrong on the law” and "misses the point” of the merger...saying that the deal would actually create a national low-fare, high-quality competitor to the "Big Four" carriers.

Currently -- American, Delta, United, and Southwest account for 80 percent of the market.

JetBlue is the country's sixth largest, but merging with Spirit would bring it to fifth.

But the justice department insists the deal will harm consumers, leading to higher fares and fewer seats.

"We allege that JetBlue's proposed takeover of Spirit will only exacerbate concentration and further stifle competition in the airline industry. JetBlue's elimination of Spirit as an independent company increases the risk that the remaining airlines, including JetBlue, would coordinate to raise prices or reduce capacity on particular routes where Spirit currently operates."

The lawsuit is the latest attempt by the Biden administration to push back against further consolidation in industries that had previously undergone extensive merger activity.

It also comes as the administration takes other steps it says are aimed at increasing competition among U.S. airlines.