JetBlue’s $3.8 billion buyout of Spirit Airlines is blocked by judge citing threat to competition

A federal judge is siding with the Biden administration and blocking JetBlue Airways from buying Spirit Airlines, saying the $3.8 billion deal would reduce competition.

The Justice Department sued to block the merger, saying it would drive up fares by eliminating Spirit, the nation’s biggest low-cost airline.

JetBlue said it disagreed with the ruling and was considering whether to appeal.

The New York carrier argued that it needs the deal to compete better against bigger rivals that dominate the U.S. air-travel market.

“We continue to believe that our combination is the best opportunity to increase much needed competition and choice by bringing low fares and great service to more customers in more markets,” JetBlue said in a statement.

The ruling was a victory for the Biden administration, which has moved aggressively to block consolidation in several industries, arguing that it hurts consumers. In the airline case, the Justice Department said if JetBlue were allowed to buy Spirit, it would especially hurt travelers who depend on Spirit’s low fares.