Divestitures at Airports in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and Near Washington, D.C. Opens Door for Low Cost Carriers to Compete Resulting in More Choices and More Competitive Airfares for Consumers

WASHINGTON — The  Department of Justice today announced that it is requiring US Airways Group Inc. and American  Airlines’ parent corporation, AMR Corp. to divest slots and gates at key  constrained airports across the country to low cost carrier airlines (LCCs) in  order to enhance system-wide competition in the airline industry resulting in  more choices and more competitive airfares for consumers.

The  department said the proposed settlement will increase the presence of the LCCs  at Boston Logan International, Chicago O’Hare International, Dallas Love Field,  Los Angeles International, Miami International, New York LaGuardia  International and Ronald Reagan Washington National.  Providing the LCCs with the incentive and  ability to invest in new capacity and permitting them to compete more  extensively nationwide will enhance meaningful competition in the industry and  benefit airline travelers.

“This  agreement has the potential to shift the landscape of the airline industry. By  guaranteeing a bigger foothold for low-cost carriers at key U.S. airports, this  settlement ensures airline passengers will see more competition on nonstop and  connecting routes throughout the country,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.  “The department’s ultimate goal has remained steadfast throughout this process  – to ensure vigorous competition in airline travel. This is vital to millions  of consumers who will benefit from both more competitive prices and enhanced  travel options.”

Six  state attorneys general–Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Tennessee and  Virginia–and the District of Columbia joined in the department’s proposed  settlement, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of  Columbia.  If approved by the court, the  settlement will resolve the department’s competitive concerns and the  lawsuit.

“The  extensive slot and gate divestitures at these key airports are groundbreaking  and they will dramatically enhance the ability of LCCs to compete system-wide,”  said Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer of the Department of Justice’s  Antitrust Division.  “This settlement  will disrupt the cozy relationships among the incumbent legacy carriers,  increase access to key congested airports and provide consumers with more  choices and more competitive airfares on flights all across the country.”

On  Aug. 13, 2013, the department, six state attorneys general and the District of  Columbia filed an antitrust lawsuit against US Airways and American alleging  that US Airway’s $11 billion acquisition of American would have substantially  lessened competition for commercial air travel in local markets throughout the  United States.  The department alleged  that the transaction would result in passengers paying higher airfares and  receiving less service.  In addition, the  department alleged that the transaction would entrench the merged airline as  the dominant carrier at Reagan National, where it would control 69 percent of  take-off and landing slots, thus effectively foreclosing entry or expansion by  competing airlines.

The  settlement requires US Airways and American to divest slots, gates and ground  facilities at key airports around the country.   Specifically, the settlement requires the companies to divest or  transfer to low cost carrier purchasers approved by the department:

All  104 air carrier slots (i.e. slots not reserved for use only by smaller,  commuter planes) at Reagan National and rights and interest in other facilities  at the airport necessary to support the use of the slots;

Thirty-four  slots at LaGuardia and rights and interest in other facilities at the airport  necessary to support the use of the slots; and

Rights  and interests to two airport gates and associated ground facilities at each  of  Boston Logan, Chicago O’Hare, Dallas  Love Field, Los Angeles International and Miami International.

The  Reagan National and LaGuardia slots will be sold under procedures approved by  the department.  Under the terms of the  settlement, JetBlue at Reagan National and Southwest at LaGuardia will be given  the opportunity to acquire the slots they currently lease from American.  The remaining 88 slots at Reagan National and  24 slots at LaGuardia plus any JetBlue or Southwest decline to acquire will be  grouped into bundles, taking into account specific slot times to ensure  commercially viable and competitive patterns of service for the recipients of  the divested slots.  The parties will  divest these slot bundles and all rights and interests in any gates and other  ground facilities (e.g., ticket counters, baggage handling facilities, office  space and loading bridges) as necessary to support the use of the purchased  slots.

The  gates at the five airports will be transferred on commercially reasonable terms  to the new acquirers.  The acquirers of  the slot and gate divestitures also require approval of the department.  Preference will be given to airlines at each  airport that do not currently operate a large share of slots or gates.

The  proposed settlement allows the department to appoint a monitoring trustee to  oversee the divestitures or transfers of the slots and gates. The settlement  also prohibits the merged company from reacquiring an ownership interest in the  divested slots or gates during the term of the settlement.  The companies must also provide advance  notice of any future slot acquisition at Reagan National regardless of whether  or not it is a reportable transaction under the premerger notification law and  further provides for waiting periods and opportunities for the department to  obtain additional information in order to review the transaction.

AMR  is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Fort Worth,  Texas.  AMR is the parent company of  American Airlines.  Last year American  flew more than 80 million passengers to more than 250 destinations worldwide  and took in more than $24 billion in revenue.   In November 2011, American filed for bankruptcy reorganization.

US Airways is a Delaware  corporation with its principal place of business in Tempe, Ariz.  Last year US Airways flew more than 50  million passengers to more than 200 destinations worldwide and took in more  than $13 billion in revenue.