American and US Airways wanted a November 12 trial date to adjudicate the Department of Justice’s anti-trust lawsuit. DOJ first wanted a February date, and then when that represented a conflict with the judge’s calendar they suggested March.
My original guess about the DOJ suit when it was filed was that, regardless of the legal merits, the biggest risk to the merger was endless delays in the courts — companies can’t make long term plans or investments while they don’t know their futures. A March trial date would have meant the DOJ effectively would have won its anti-trust suit by default.
Today the judge in the case ruled to set a November 25th trial date, which means that the anti-trust claims will ultimately either be settled or adjudicated on the merits. In other words, the merger should not get killed simply through delays.
American’s statement on the judge’s decision:
“We are confident in our case and eager to get to Court. We are pleased to have a trial date that will enable us to resolve this litigation in a reasonable timeframe. We want the opportunity to compete together to enhance competition with the largest airlines in the U.S. – United, Delta and Southwest – and a number of fast-growing low-cost carriers. We look forward to making the case for the new American Airlines beginning on November 25.”
No matter what you think of the merger — and my preference has always been for American to remain a standalone carrier — this is a major development. While an anti-trust suit reduced the odds of a merger happening, a November trial date keeps the possibility alive.