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Opinion
Thomas Black

The Wrong JetBlue Deal Gets the Antitrust Treatment

The government wants to end an alliance with American Airlines when it should be blocking the Spirit acquisition.

There is little evidence that the Northeast Alliance is hurting competition and driving up fares.

There is little evidence that the Northeast Alliance is hurting competition and driving up fares.

Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Airline alliances and code-sharing agreements — which allow travelers to book tickets with access to more destinations and airport lounges of members worldwide — have been around since the beginning of commercial aviation. Customers like these partnerships or they wouldn’t have lasted.

The Department of Justice, in an antitrust trial that began Tuesday, is seeking to undo one of these partnerships, the Northeast Alliance between American Airlines Group Inc. and JetBlue Airways Corp. It allows the carriers to coordinate flights and share revenue at the four main airports in Boston and the New York area. The government contends the arrangement is essentially a merger and will drive up fares. (The case also has implications for JetBlue’s proposed acquisition of Spirit Airlines Inc., which faces its own antitrust review.)