WASHINGTON (AP) – Attorney General Eric Holder says American Airlines and US Airways must make broad concessions if they want to settle a lawsuit blocking their proposed merger.
Holder indicated Monday that the government’s concerns about the merger extend beyond the control that American and US Airways would have at Washington’s busy Reagan National Airport.
The attorney general’s comments show that the parties could try to reach a deal and avoid a Nov. 25 trial on the lawsuit, but also could indicate that the government’s demands may be too steep for the airlines.
The government sued to block the merger, which would create the world’s biggest airline, on grounds that it would restrict competition and drive up prices for consumers on hundreds of routes around the country.
At a press conference in Washington, Holder said his department has focused on forcing American and US Airways to make concessions at key busy airports throughout the United States.
“We will not agree to something that does not fundamentally resolve the concerns that were expressed in the (lawsuit) and do not substantially bring relief to consumers,” Holder said. If there is no settlement, he said the department was fully ready to take the case to trial.
Last week, American and US Airways Group Inc. began working on a settlement proposal that would include giving up valuable takeoff and landing rights at Reagan National, two people close to the situation told The Associated Press. It was not clear how many takeoff and landing slots the two airlines were willing to give up, and they did not want to make broader concessions.
The combined airline would keep the American name and leapfrog United Airlines and Delta Air Lines in size. It would control about 69 percent of all flights at Reagan National.
American Airlines offered a terse response to Holder’s comments.
“Any discussions about settlement to resolve this litigation, whether internal, with DOJ directly or through the mediator would be private and we are not going to comment on them in any way,” said Mike Trevino, a spokesman for the airline. US Airways said it would not comment on the discussions either.
The airlines and the government have agreed to use a court-appointed mediator in settlement talks. If those discussions fail, a trial is scheduled to begin later this month and run through mid-December in U.S. district court in Washington.
Vicki Bryan, an analyst at the bond-research firm Gimme Credit, said that far-reaching demands by the Justice Department were “disturbing but not surprising.” She said the government would push hard for a settlement “to save face” but would find it hard to convince a judge to block the merger. She said holding up the merger would hurt the airline industry by leaving American to carry on “as a below-average, poorly run carrier with a long history of safety concerns.”
American’s parent, AMR Corp., has been operating under bankruptcy protection since November 2011. As part of the bankruptcy case, it agreed to pay a record $24.9 million in fines to settle $162 million in claims lodged by the Federal Aviation Administration for a variety of maintenance and safety issues.
Koenig reported from Dallas.
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- The Pac-12 football season nears kickoff
- Tips to get ready for a pain-free golf season
- Protect your family with these 7 home security features
- How to train like an Olympic swimmer
- 2016 Olympics: A guide to must-see TV events
- The bride's guide to feeling your best on your wedding day
- Deciding when you need knee surgery
- Celebrating Fourth of July is much cooler in these AZ towns
- Top ten road trip bathrooms in America
- Six things causing a pain in your neck
- 5 things to make your summer move easier
- Three elements of a strong timeshare exit guarantee
- Stretches and exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome
- The best Major League ballparks have their own personality
- Comparing the best regular seasons: The '96 Bulls and '16 Warriors
- 3 Arizona road trips and the vehicles to get you there
- Colon cancer is preventable. Check these signs and symptoms to stay healthy.
- 6 of the biggest skin cancer myths
- Affordable small home makeover ideas
- Locals helping locals: 6 success stories you need to know about
- Sunscreen facts that could save your life
- 6 energy saving hacks for your home
- 5 tips for choosing a company to end your timeshare
- Overlooked water tips to save you money
- 5 of the most adored gentlemen in professional sports today
- The real danger of sitting at your desk
- Most surprising NBA playoff performances of the last 40 years
- 11 classic baseball movies you must see again
- Finally getting rid of fat: 3 methods that actually work
- 4 reasons cancer survivors should focus on food