Judge: Airline-merger trial to start in November

US Airways and American Airlines

Credit: AFP/Getty Images

US Airways and American Airlines have launched confidential merger talks. (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

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by DAVID KOENIG & MARCY GORDON

Associated Press

Posted on August 30, 2013 at 11:51 AM

Updated Friday, Aug 30 at 11:51 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge said Friday that the government's lawsuit to block the proposed merger of American Airlines and US Airways will start Nov. 25, a timetable favored by the airlines.

The U.S. Justice Department had wanted the trial to start in March, saying it needed more time to prepare for the complex case. The airlines said that such a long delay would threaten their merger.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said in court Friday that March was "too far off."

The companies were close to completing a merger to create the world's biggest airline, but the Justice Department and six states sued this month to block the deal. They said it would reduce competition and lead to higher prices for travelers. They said that the combined American-US Airways would be too dominant at Reagan National Airport outside Washington and on many routes around the country.

Justice Department lawyers have also pointed to recent record profits at both airlines — July's profit was a one-month high at American parent AMR Corp., which has been cutting costs under bankruptcy protection — to argue that the companies don't need to merge to survive.

The airlines argue that their merger would increase competition by creating another big competitor to United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, which grew through recent mergers. They also point to the presence of other competitors including Southwest, which carries more passengers within the United States than any airline.

Both sides said in a court filing this week that they were open to a settlement that would avoid a trial, although each made comments suggesting that they were not close to agreement.

If the merger is blocked, AMR will have to rewrite its plan for emerging from bankruptcy protection. The merger is a key part of that plan.

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