Justice Department sues to block JetBlue-Spirit airlines mergerAttorney General Merrick Garland announced a lawsuit to block JetBlue-Spirit merger, stating the deal will drive up prices for regular passengers.Anastasiia Riddle, USA TODAYHours after the Department of Justice announced it would be suing to prevent JetBlue from merging with ultra-low-cost competitor Spirit Airlines, JetBlue’s CEO Robin Hayes sat down with USA TODAY for an interview to respond.”We’re obviously disappointed because – given that the Department of Justice has presided over the creation of four very large airlines, this is really the best antidote to that,” Hayes said.Earlier Tuesday, Association of Flight Attendants president Sara Nelson called the proposed pairing the “anti-merger merger.”Both Nelson and Hayes said a larger JetBlue would be better positioned to compete with the four largest U.S. airlines: American, Delta, United and Southwest, which together account for about 80% of air traffic in the country.DOJ filing: US sues to block JetBlue-Spirit merger”We’ve got a lot of conviction that there is a massive net consumer benefit in this transaction,” Hayes said. “If for some reason it is blocked … consumers will lose because the ability for JetBlue to make such a profound difference is lost.”One of the concerns DOJ highlighted in its press conference announcing the filing was that JetBlue plans to remove seats from Spirit planes. JetBlue configures its aircraft with more legroom than Spirit’s infamous 28-inch seat pitch, but consolidating both fleets to JetBlue standards will mean less passenger capacity overall.Hayes insisted that JetBlue plans to operate more flights to make up for the reduced number of seats per aircraft, which he said should keep fares more competitive if the merger ultimately goes through.Tell us your story: Mobility device lost or damaged by an airline? USA TODAY wants to hear about itJetBlue’s immediate next step, however, is to address some concerns it has with the DOJ’s filing. “We now will get a chance to respond to the complaint, which is what we will do,” Hayes said.  “We will continue to advocate and make the case for this very pro-consumer deal.”Zach Wichter is a travel reporter based in New York. You can reach him at zwichter@usatoday.com.

Source: www.usatoday.com