Update 11:45pm: Adds JetBlue comment. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is requesting that the U.S. Department of Justice heavily scrutinize JetBlue’s (NASDAQ:JBLU) planned purchase of Spirit Airlines (NYSE:SAVE) and ultimately block the combination.
Warren wrote a letter to Transportation Dept. Secretary Pete Buttigieg asking that the agency to consider blocking the $3.8 billion purchase of Spirit (SAVE). Although the Justice Department is the agency that is reviewing the deal, Warren argues that the DOT also can move to stop the deal.
The “DOT must make its own independent competition assessments and take its own actions accordingly without deferring to DOJ,” Warren wrote in the letter dated Thursday.
Warren argued that a combination of JetBlue (JBLU) and Spirit (SAVE), a low cost carrier, would likely lead to higher fares for passengers.
The “DOT has the statutory authority to block mergers that it determines are inconsistent with the public interest at the agency level without having to go to court—a significant advantage over DOJ—and you have an enormous opportunity to protect consumers nationwide by using this authority aggressively,” Warren wrote in the letter.
JetBlue (JBLU) responded to Warren’s letter in a statement emailed to Seeking Alpha.
“Our proposed combination with Spirit addresses Senator Warren’s longstanding concern about the lack of competition in the U.S. airline industry by bringing JetBlue’s disruptive combination of low fares and great service to more people in more places. With just 5% of the market,” JetBlue said in the statement.
The airline also addressed Warren’s request for the Dept. of Transportation to review the deal.
“We are disappointed that Senator Warren would suggest circumventing a well-established process that would ensure a full and in-depth review of our proposal, andcwe look forward to continued engagement with both the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Transportation on the significant benefits this combination will provide to the travelling public,” JetBlue added.
Warren’s letter comes after the Democrat along with Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) in March requested that the Dept. of Justice investigate the original proposed Frontier (NASDAQ:ULCC) purchase of Spirit (SAVE), which was later terminated after JetBlue won a bidding war for Spirit.
The push from Warren also comes as Jetblue (JBLU) and American Airlines (AAL) are set to battle Sept. 26 in a hearing with the U.S. Dept. of Justice over an alliance the airlines announced in July 2020 over code sharing. The government is asking for the court to order the airlines to end their Northeast Alliance partnership in an action aimed at improving competition in the Northeast part of the U.S.
On Monday Spirit (SAVE) set its holder vote for its sale to JetBlue for Oct. 19