The fight over the American Airlines-US Airways antitrust lawsuit is going state to state as Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt asked Thursday for the Justice Department to drop to case.
Even though Oklahoma is not one of the six states plus Washington, D.C., that have joined the federal lawsuit to block the merger, Pruitt is asking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to consider the states' side.
"Not allowing the merger to proceed creates continuing uncertainty for the thousands of employees for American Airlines, one of the largest private-sector employers in the states," Pruitt says in a letter to Holder. "In Tulsa alone, American employs more than 6,000 workers at the maintenance facility. Those employees have faced uncertainty over the past 21 months while awaiting court approval of a reorganization plan."
Pruitt's request came the same day that flight attendants for American Airlines began lobbying Virginia to drop out of the lawsuit against the merger.
The Justice Department filed suit to block the merger in August, saying that combining the country's fourth- and fifth-largest airlines would limit competition and hurt consumers in an industry that has been consolidating for more than a decade.
Earlier this week, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced that his state was dropping out of the lawsuit after a deal was forged to preserve service to airports in Texas, keep a major hub in Dallas-Fort Worth and maintain the company's headquarters in Fort Worth.
Six states are still part of the lawsuit Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Florida, Arizona, Virginia and Michigan.
Oklahoma is one of the states that would benefit from the merger more than many other states because US Airways doesn't fly here and the merger would expand access to new cities through the combined carrier.
Pruitt said in the letter that the merger doesn't violate any of Oklahoma's antitrust laws.
"It is evident the merger would actually benefit consumers," Pruitt wrote. "The merger also enhances the prospect of adding flights from Oklahoma City and Tulsa to the US Airways hubs across the United States. Blocking the merger would deny consumers more choices and options."
The Association of Professional Flight Attendants asked Virginia on Thursday to drop out of the lawsuit.
Virginia has become a major point of contention in the merger fight.
The Justice Department has pointed out that Ronald Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Va., would be dominated by American Airlines and US Airways, which combined now control more than 60 percent of the slots there.
The two airlines have about 570 employees in Virginia, and the flight attendants union is arguing that the jobs of American and US Airways employees are at risk.
"Anyone standing in the way of the merger is also standing in the way of hard-working Virginians," said AFPA president Laura Glading. The antitrust suit is wrong both as a matter of fact and a matter of policy and I'm not sure why he (Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli) joined in the first place."
Many of the states that joined the Justice Department in the lawsuit are served by American and US Airways, so there may be some flights consolidated as the companies combine, even if routes aren't eliminated completely entirely.
The state-by-state tactic doesn't seem to be working on Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, whose state is home to the headquarters of US Airways and a hub for the airline.
He said this week that Arizona won't be dropping out of the lawsuit.
"We remain convinced that the airline merger between US Airways and American Airlines is harmful to competition and to Arizonans," Horne said in a statement. "The merger would inevitably result in higher fares and lesser service as more routes would be monopolized by just one carrier."
The lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial Nov. 25 in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.
Plaintiffs in antitrust suit
- U.S. Department of Justice
- Washington, D.C.
Kyle Arnold 918-581-8380