American Airlines and US Airways Group Inc. are seeking U.S. Justice Department documents on past approvals of airline mergers as the carriers fight the government’s effort to block their proposed merger.
The Justice Department, which sued the airlines in August, has refused to turn over records about its approval of previous airline deals such as the 2010 United-Continental tie-up, the companies said in a filing today in federal court in Washington.
“Even more remarkable than DOJ’s abrupt and unexplained reversal is the fact that it contends that the dramatic change in its view of consolidation in the airline industry is off-limits in the discovery process here,” they said. Discovery is the pretrial exchange of evidence.
The Justice Department claims the proposed merger of American parent AMR Corp. and US Airways, which would create the world’s largest airline, would reduce competition and hurt consumers. Fort Worth, Texas-based AMR and US Airways, based in Tempe, Arizona, are defending the deal as procompetitive. The case is scheduled to begin trial on Nov. 25.
The airlines want a court order compelling the U.S. to turn over documents on the 2005 US Airways-America West Airlines merger, the 2008 Delta Air Lines-Northwest Airlines merger, the 2010 United-Continental merger, and the 2011 Southwest Airlines-AirTran merger, according to the court filing.
Justice Department spokeswoman Gina Talamona declined to comment on the filing by the carriers.
The government said in court papers that the airlines’ requests are overbroad and burdensome.
“The United States’ exercise of prosecutorial discretion in a different merger bears no relevance to the question of whether the merger between US Airways and American substantially lessens competition,” the government said.
The airlines said they need the records to fight the Justice Department’s lawsuit and “will be at a significant disadvantage” if the U.S. doesn’t respond.
There’s no other source from which they can get final versions of the department’s consumer-benefit studies, data analyses, and other factual models and forecasts on which it relied in approving the previous mergers, the airlines said.
The case is U.S. v. US Airways Group Inc., 13-cv-01236, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).