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Notice is hereby given pursuant to the Antitrust Procedures and Penalties Act, 15 U.S.C. 16(b)-(h), that a proposed Final Judgment, Stipulation and Competitive Impact Statement have been filed with the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in United States, et al. v. US Airways Group, Inc., et al., Civil No. 1:13-cv-01236 in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. On August 13, 2013, the United States and six plaintiff states and the District of Columbia filed a Complaint alleging that the proposed merger of US Airways Group, Inc. (“US Airways”) and AMR Corporation (“American”) would substantially lessen competition for scheduled airline passenger service in the United States and therefore violate Section 7 of the Clayton Act 15 U.S.C. 18. The proposed Final Judgment, filed November 12, 2013, requires US Airways and American to divest (1) 104 air carrier slots at Washington Reagan National Airport along with gates and related facilities, (2) 34 slots at New York LaGuardia Airport along with gates and related facilities, and (3) two gates and related facilities at each of five key airports: Boston Logan, Chicago O'Hare, Dallas Love Field, Los Angeles International and Miami International.
Copies of the Complaint, proposed Final Judgment and Competitive Impact Statement are available for inspection at the Department of Justice, Antitrust Division, Antitrust Documents Group, 450 Fifth Street NW., Suite 1010, Washington, DC 20530 (telephone: 202-514-2481), on the Department of Justice's Web site at http://www.justice.gov/atr, and at the Office of the Clerk of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Copies of these materials may be obtained from the Antitrust Division upon request and payment of the copying fee set by Department of Justice regulations.
Public comment is invited within 60 days of the date of this notice. Such comments, including the name of the submitter, and responses thereto, will be posted on the U.S. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division's internet Web site, filed by the United States on the public Court docket and, under certain circumstances, published in the Federal Register. Comments should be directed to William Stallings, Chief, Transportation, Energy & Agriculture Section, Antitrust Division, Department of Justice, 450 Fifth Street NW., Suite 8000, Washington, DC 20530, (telephone: 202-514-9323). Comments should not be directed to the Court.Start Signature
Patricia A. Brink,
Director of Civil Enforcement.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
450 Fifth Street Northwest, Suite 8000
Washington, DC 20530
STATE OF ARIZONA
1275 West Washington
Phoenix, AZ 85007
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
441 Fourth Street Northwest, Suite 600 South
Washington, DC 20001
STATE OF FLORIDA
PL-01, The Capitol
Tallahassee, FL 32399
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
14th Floor, Strawberry Square
Harrisburg, PA 17120
STATE OF TENNESSEE
500 Charlotte Avenue
Nashville, TN 37202
STATE OF TEXAS
300 W. 15th Street, 7th Floor
Austin, TX 78701
COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA
900 East Main Street
Richmond, VA 23219
US AIRWAYS GROUP, INC.
111 W. Rio Salado Parkway
Tempe, AZ 85281
4333 Amon Carter Boulevard
Fort Worth, TX 76155
Case No. 1:13-cv-01236 (CKK)
Judge: Colleen Kollar-Kotelly
The United States of America, acting under the direction of the Attorney General of the United States, and the States of Arizona, Florida, Tennessee, Texas, the Commonwealths of Pennsylvania and Virginia, and the District of Columbia (“Plaintiff States”), acting by and through their respective Attorneys General, bring this civil action under federal antitrust law to enjoin the planned merger of two of the nation's five major airlines, US Airways Group, Inc. (“US Airways”) and AMR Corporation (“American”), and to obtain equitable and other relief as appropriate.
1. Millions of passengers depend on the airline industry to travel quickly, efficiently, and safely between various cities in the United States and throughout the world. Since 1978, the nation has relied on competition among airlines to promote affordability, innovation, and service and quality improvements. In recent years, however, the major airlines have, in tandem, raised fares, imposed new and higher fees, and reduced service. Competition has diminished and consumers have paid a heavy price. This merger—by creating the world's largest airline—would, in the words of US Airways' management, “finish[ ] industry evolution.” It would reduce the number of major domestic airlines from five to four, and the number of “legacy” airlines—today, Delta, United, American, and US Airways—from four to three. In so doing, it threatens substantial harm to consumers. Because of the size of the airline industry, if this merger were approved, even a small increase in the price of airline tickets, checked bags, or flight change fees would cause hundreds of millions of dollars of harm to American consumers annually.
2. American and US Airways compete directly on thousands of heavily traveled nonstop and connecting routes. Millions of passengers benefit each year from head-to-head competition that this merger would eliminate. With less competition, airlines can cut service and raise prices with less fear of competitive responses from rivals.
3. This merger will leave three very similar legacy airlines—Delta, United, and the new American—that past experience shows increasingly prefer tacit coordination over full-throated competition. By further reducing the number of legacy airlines and aligning the economic incentives of those that remain, the merger of US Airways and American would make it easier for the remaining airlines to cooperate, rather than compete, on price and service. That enhanced cooperation is unlikely to be significantly disrupted by Southwest and JetBlue, which, while offering important competition on the routes they fly, have less extensive domestic and international route networks than the legacy airlines.
4. US Airways' own executives—who would run the new American—have long been “proponents of consolidation.” US Airways believes that the industry—before 2005—had “too many” competitors, causing an “irrational business model.” Since 2005, there has been a wave of consolidation in the industry. US Airways has cheered these successive mergers, with its CEO stating in 2011 that “fewer airlines” is a “good thing.” US Airways' President Start Printed Page 71379explained this thinking that same year: “Three successful fare increases—[we are] able to pass along to customers because of consolidation.” (emphasis added). Similarly, he boasted at a 2012 industry conference: “Consolidation has also . . . allowed the industry to do things like ancillary revenues [e.g., checked bag and ticket change fees]. . . . That is a structural permanent change to the industry and one that's impossible to overstate the benefit from it.” In essence, industry consolidation has left fewer, more-similar airlines, making it easier for the remaining airlines to raise prices, impose new or higher baggage and other ancillary fees, and reduce capacity and service. This merger positions US Airways' management to continue the trend—at the expense of consumers.
5. US Airways intends to do just that. If this merger were approved, US Airways would no longer need to offer low-fare options for certain travelers. For example, US Airways employs “Advantage Fares,” an aggressive discounting strategy aimed at undercutting the other legacy airlines' nonstop fares with cheaper connecting service. US Airways' hubs are in cities that generate less lucrative nonstop traffic than the other legacy airlines' hubs. To compensate, US Airways uses its Advantage Fares to attract additional passengers on flights connecting through its hubs.
6. The other legacy airlines take a different approach. If, for example, United offers nonstop service on a route, and Delta and American offer connecting service on that same route, Delta and American typically charge the same price for their connecting service as United charges for its nonstop service. As American executives observed, the legacy airlines “generally respect the pricing of the non-stop carrier [on a given route],” even though it means offering connecting service at the same price as nonstop service. But American, Delta, and United frequently do charge lower prices for their connecting service on routes where US Airways offers nonstop service. They do so to respond to US Airways' use of Advantage Fares on other routes.
7. If the merger were approved, US Airways' economic rationale for offering Advantage Fares would likely go away. The merged airline's cost of sticking with US Airways' one-stop, low-price strategy would increase. Delta and United would likely undercut the merged firm on a larger number of nonstop routes. At the same time, the revenues generated from Advantage Fares would shrink as American's current nonstop routes would cease to be targets for Advantage Fares. The bottom line is that the merged airline would likely abandon Advantage Fares, eliminating significant competition and causing consumers to pay hundreds of millions of dollars more.
8. Consumers will likely also be harmed by the planned merger because American had a standalone plan to emerge from bankruptcy poised to grow. American planned to expand domestically and internationally, adding service on nearly 115 new routes. To support its plan, American recently made the largest aircraft order in industry history.
9. American's standalone plan would have bucked current industry trends toward capacity reductions and less competition. US Airways called American's growth plan “industry destabilizing” and worried that American's plan would cause other carriers to react “with their own enhanced growth plans. . . .” The result would be to increase competitive pressures throughout the industry. After the merger, US Airways' current executives—who would manage the merged firm—would be able to abandon American's efforts to expand and instead continue the industry's march toward higher prices and less service. As its CEO candidly stated earlier this year, US Airways views this merger as “the last major piece needed to fully rationalize the industry.”
10. Passengers to and from the Washington, DC area are likely to be particularly hurt. To serve Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (“Reagan National”), a carrier must have “slots,” which are government-issued rights to take off and land. US Airways currently holds 55% of the slots at Reagan National and the merger would increase the percentage of slots held by the combined firm to 69%. The combined airline would have a monopoly on 63% of the nonstop routes served out of the airport. Competition at Reagan National cannot flourish where one airline increasingly controls an essential ingredient to competition. Without slots, other airlines cannot enter or expand the number of flights that they offer on other routes. As a result, Washington, DC area passengers would likely see higher prices and fewer choices if the merger were approved.
11. Notwithstanding their prior unequivocal statements about the effects of consolidation, the defendants will likely claim that the elimination of American as a standalone competitor will benefit consumers. They will argue that Advantage Fares will continue, existing capacity levels and growth plans will be maintained, and unspecified or unverified “synergies” will materialize, creating the possibility of lower fares. The American public has seen this before. Commenting on a commitment to maintain service levels made by two other airlines seeking approval for a merger in 2010, the CEO of US Airways said: “I'm hopeful they're just saying what they need . . . to get this [transaction] approved.” By making claims about benefits that are at odds with their prior statements on the likely effects of this merger, that is precisely what the merging parties' executives are doing here—saying what they believe needs to be said to pass antitrust scrutiny.
12. There is no reason to accept the likely anticompetitive consequences of this merger. Both airlines are confident they can and will compete effectively as standalone companies. A revitalized American is fully capable of emerging from bankruptcy proceedings on its own with a competitive cost structure, profitable existing business, and plans for growth. US Airways today is competing vigorously and earning record profits. Executives of both airlines have repeatedly stated that they do not need this merger to succeed.
13. The merger between US Airways and American would likely substantially lessen competition, and tend to create a monopoly, in violation of Section 7 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 18. Therefore, this merger should be permanently enjoined.
II. Jurisdiction, Interstate Commerce, and Venue
14. The United States brings this action, and this Court has subject-matter jurisdiction over this action, under Section 15 of the Clayton Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 25, to prevent and restrain US Airways and American Airlines from violating Section 7 of the Clayton Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 18.
15. The Plaintiff States bring this action under Section 16 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 26, to prevent and restrain US Airways and American Airlines from violating Section 7 of the Clayton Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 18. The Plaintiff States, by and through their respective Attorneys General, bring this action as parens patriae on behalf of the citizens, general welfare, and economy of each of their states.
16. The defendants are engaged in, and their activities substantially affect, interstate commerce, and commerce in each of the Plaintiff States. US Airways and American Airlines each annually transport millions of passengers across state lines throughout this country, generating billions of dollars in revenue while doing so.Start Printed Page 71380
17. Venue is proper under Section 12 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. § 22. This Court also has personal jurisdiction over each defendant. Both defendants are found and transact business in this judicial district.
III. The Defendants and the Transaction
18. Defendant US Airways Group, Inc., is a Delaware corporation headquartered in Tempe, Arizona. Last year, it flew over fifty million passengers to approximately 200 locations worldwide, taking in more than $13 billion in revenue. US Airways operates hubs in Phoenix, Charlotte, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC
19. US Airways is performing exceptionally well. In 2012, it enjoyed record profits. It is operating at high load factors—the percentage of seats sold on its flights—and has a national and international route network, alliances with international airlines, a strong brand name, modern equipment, and a competitive cost structure. In mid-2012, US Airways' CEO, touting the airline's “record second quarter results,” told Dow Jones that the company “has a great business model that works and we certainly don't need to merge with another airline.”
20. Defendant AMR Corporation is a Delaware corporation headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas. AMR Corporation is the parent company of American Airlines. Last year, American flew over eighty million passengers to approximately 250 locations worldwide, taking in more than $24 billion in revenue. American operates hubs in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, and Miami. The American Airlines brand is “one of the most recognized . . . in the world.”
21. In November 2011, American filed for bankruptcy reorganization and is currently under the supervision of the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. American adopted and implemented a standalone business plan designed “to restore American to industry leadership, profitability and growth.” While in bankruptcy, American management “pursued and successfully implemented” key provisions of this plan, including revenue and network enhancements, as well as “restructuring efforts [that] have encompassed labor cost savings, managerial efficiencies, fleet reconfiguration, and other economies . . . .” That work has paid off. American reported that its revenue growth has “outpaced” the industry since entering bankruptcy and in its most recent quarterly results reported a company record-high $5.6 billion in revenues, with $357 million in profits. Under experienced and sophisticated senior management, American's restructuring process has positioned it to produce “industry leading profitability.” As recently as January 8, 2013, American's management presented plans to emerge from bankruptcy that would increase the destinations American serves in the United States and the frequency of its flights, and position American to compete independently as a profitable airline with aggressive plans for growth.
22. US Airways sees American the same way. Its CEO observed in December 2011 that “A[merican] is not going away, they will be stronger post-bankruptcy because they will have less debt and reduced labor costs.” A US Airways' executive vice president similarly wrote in July 2012 that “[t]here is no question about AMR's ability to survive on a standalone basis.”
23. US Airways and American agreed to merge on February 13, 2013. US Airways shareholders would own 28 percent of the combined airline, while American shareholders, creditors, labor unions, and employees would own 72 percent. The merged airline would operate under the American brand name, but the new American would be run by US Airways management.
IV. The Relevant Markets
A. Scheduled Air Passenger Service Between Cities
24. Domestic scheduled air passenger service enables consumers to travel quickly and efficiently between various cities in the United States. Air travel offers passengers significant time savings and convenience over other forms of travel. For example, a flight from Washington, DC to Detroit takes just over an hour of flight time. Driving between the two cities takes at least eight hours. A train between the two cities takes more than fifteen hours.
25. Due to time savings and convenience afforded by scheduled air passenger service, few passengers would substitute other modes of transportation (car, bus, or train) for scheduled air passenger service in response to a small but significant industry-wide fare increase. Another way to say this, as described in the Fed. Trade Comm'n & U.S. Dep't of Justice Horizontal Merger Guidelines (2010), and endorsed by courts in this Circuit, is that a hypothetical monopolist of all domestic scheduled air passenger service likely would increase its prices by at least a small but significant and non-transitory amount. Scheduled air passenger service, therefore, constitutes a line of commerce and a relevant product market within the meaning of Section 7 of the Clayton Act.
26. A “city pair” is comprised of a flight's departure and arrival cities. For example, a flight departing from Washington and arriving in Chicago makes up the Washington-Chicago city pair. Passengers seek to depart from airports close to where they live and work, and arrive at airports close to their intended destinations. Most airline travel is related to business, family events, and vacations. Thus, most passengers book flights with their origins and destinations predetermined. Few passengers who wish to fly from one city to another would likely switch to flights between other cities in response to a small but significant and non-transitory fare increase.
27. Airlines customarily set fares on a city pair basis. For each city pair, the degree and nature of the competition from other airlines generally plays a large role in an airline's pricing decision.
28. Therefore, a hypothetical monopolist of scheduled air passenger service between specific cities likely would increase its prices by at least a small but significant and non-transitory amount. Accordingly, each city pair is a relevant geographic market and section of the country under Section 7 of the Clayton Act.
29. Consumer preferences also play a role in airline pricing and are relevant for the purpose of analyzing the likely effects of the proposed merger. Some passengers prefer nonstop service because it saves travel time; some passengers prefer buying tickets at the last minute; others prefer service at a particular airport within a metropolitan area. For example, most business customers traveling to and from downtown Washington prefer service at Reagan National over other airports in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Through a variety of fare restrictions and rules, airlines can profitably raise prices for some of these passengers without raising prices for others. Thus, the competitive effects of the proposed merger may vary among passengers depending on their preferences for particular types of service or particular airports.
B. Takeoff and Landing Slots at Reagan National Airport
30. Reagan National is one of only four airports in the country requiring slots for takeoffs and landings. Slots are expensive (often valued at over $2 million per slot), difficult to obtain, and only rarely change hands between airlines. There are no alternatives to Start Printed Page 71381slots for airlines seeking to enter or expand their service at Reagan National.
31. Reagan National is across the Potomac River from Washington, DC, and, due to its proximity to the city and direct service via the Metro, airlines actively seek to serve passengers flying into and out of Reagan National. Airlines do not view service at other airports as adequate substitutes for service offered at Reagan National for certain passengers, and thus they are unlikely to switch away from buying or leasing slots at Reagan National in response to a small but significant increase in the price of slots. Airlines pay significant sums for slots at Reagan National, despite having the option of serving passengers through the region's other airports. A hypothetical monopolist of slots at Reagan National likely would increase its prices by at least a small but significant and non-transitory amount. Thus, slots at Reagan National Airport constitute a line of commerce, section of the country, and relevant market within the meaning of Section 7 of the Clayton Act.
V. The Merger Is Likely to Result in Anticompetitive Effects
A. Industry Background
32. Today, four network or “legacy” airlines remain in the United States: American, US Airways, United, and Delta. These four have extensive national and international networks, connections to hundreds of destinations, established brand names, and strong frequent flyer reward programs. In addition, there are non-network airlines, including Southwest Airlines and a handful of smaller firms, which typically do not offer “hub-and-spoke” service.
33. Airlines compete in many ways. One is the price of a ticket. Airlines also compete based on: nonstop versus connecting flights; number of destinations served; convenient flight schedules; passenger comfort and seating policies; choices for classes of service; carry-on baggage policies; the degree of personal service at ticket counters and boarding areas; onboard meal and drink service; in-flight entertainment; and the quality and generosity of frequent flyer programs.
34. Since 2005, the U.S. airline industry has undergone significant consolidation. The consolidation “wave” started with the 2005 merger between US Airways and America West, creating today's US Airways. In 2008, Delta and Northwest Airlines merged; in 2010, United and Continental merged; and in 2011, Southwest Airlines and AirTran merged. The chart below, in which one of US Airways' executive vice presidents referred to industry consolidation as the “New Holy Grail,” demonstrates that since 2005 the number of major airlines has dropped from nine to five.
35. Increasing consolidation among large airlines has hurt passengers. The major airlines have copied each other in raising fares, imposing new fees on travelers, reducing or eliminating service on a number of city pairs, and downgrading amenities. An August 2012 presentation from US Airways observes that consolidation has resulted in “Fewer and Larger Competitors.” The structural change to “fewer and larger competitors” has allowed “[t]he industry” to “reap the benefits.” Those benefits to the industry are touted by US Airways in the same presentation as including “capacity reductions” and new “ancillary revenues” like bag fees.
B. Many Relevant Markets Are Highly Concentrated and the Planned Merger Would Significantly Increase That Concentration
36. In 2005, there were nine major airlines. If this merger were approved, there would be only four. The three remaining legacy airlines and Southwest would account for over 80% of the domestic scheduled passenger service market, with the new American becoming the biggest airline in the world.
37. Market concentration is one useful indicator of the level of competitive vigor in a market, and the likely competitive effects of a merger. The more concentrated a market, and the more a transaction would increase concentration in a market, the more likely it is that a transaction would result in a meaningful reduction in competition. Concentration in relevant markets is typically measured by the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index (“HHI”). Markets in which the HHI exceeds 2,500 points are considered highly concentrated. Post-merger increases in Start Printed Page 71382HHI of more than 200 points are considered to be significant increases in concentration.
38. In more than 1,000 of the city pair markets in which American and US Airways currently compete head-to-head, the post-merger HHI would exceed 2,500 points and the merger would increase the HHI by more than 200 points. For example, on the Charlotte-Dallas city pair, the post-merger HHI will increase by 4,648 to 9,319 (out of 10,000). In these markets, US Airways and American annually serve more than 14 million passengers and collect more than $6 billion in fares. The substantial increases in concentration in these highly concentrated markets demonstrate that in these relevant markets, the merger is presumed, as a matter of law, to be anticompetitive. The relevant markets described in this paragraph are listed in Appendix A.
39. Other city pairs across the country would likely be affected by the loss of competition stemming from this planned merger. In some of these markets, US Airways and American compete head-to-head, often offering consumers discounted fares. If approved, this merger will likely end much of that discounting, significantly harming consumers in the process. Moreover, the loss of competition in these markets would increase the likelihood that the remaining airlines can coordinate to raise price, reduce output, and diminish the quality of their services. In these relevant markets, the merger is likely also to substantially lessen competition.
40. In the market for slots at Reagan National, the merger would result in a highly concentrated market, with a post-merger HHI of 4,959. The merger would also significantly increase concentration by 1,493 points. As a result, the merger should be presumed, as a matter of law, to be anticompetitive.
C. This Merger Would Increase the Likelihood of Coordinated Behavior Among the Remaining Network Airlines Causing Higher Fares, Higher Fees, and More Limited Service
41. The structure of the airline industry is already conducive to coordinated behavior: Few large players dominate the industry; each transaction is small; and most pricing is readily transparent.
42. For example, the legacy airlines closely watch the pricing moves of their competitors. When one airline “leads” a price increase, other airlines frequently respond by following with price increases of their own. The initiating carrier will lead the price increase and then see if the other carriers will match the increase. If they do not, the initiating carrier will generally withdraw the increase shortly thereafter.
43. The legacy airlines also use what they call “cross-market initiatives,” or “CMIs,” to deter aggressive discounting and prevent fare wars. A CMI occurs where two or more airlines compete against each other on multiple routes. If an airline offers discounted fares in one market, an affected competitor often responds with discounts in another market—a CMI—where the discounting airline prefers a higher fare. CMIs often cause an airline to withdraw fare discounts. For example, in the fall of 2009, US Airways lowered fares and relaxed restrictions on flights out of Detroit (a Delta stronghold) to Philadelphia. Delta responded by offering lower fares and relaxed restrictions from Boston to Washington (a US Airways stronghold). US Airways' team lead for pricing observed Delta's move and concluded “[w]e have more to lose in BOSWAS . . . I think we need to bail on the [Detroit-Philadelphia] changes.”
44. There is also past express coordinated behavior in the industry. For example, all airlines have complete, accurate, and real-time access to every detail of every airline's published fare structure on every route through the airline-owned Airline Tariff Publishing Company (“ATPCO”). US Airways' management has called ATPCO “a dedicated price-telegraph network for the industry.” The airlines use ATPCO to monitor and analyze each other's fares and fare changes and implement strategies designed to coordinate pricing. Airlines have previously used ATPCO to engage in coordinated behavior. In 1992, the United States filed a lawsuit to stop several airlines, including both defendants, from using their ATPCO filings as a signaling device to facilitate agreements on fares. That lawsuit resulted in a consent decree, now expired.
45. US Airways also has communicated directly with a competitor when it was upset by that competitor's efforts to compete more aggressively. In 2010, one of US Airways' larger rivals extended a “triple miles” promotion that set off a market share battle among legacy carriers. The rival airline was also expanding into new markets and was rumored to be returning planes to its fleet that had been mothballed during the recession. US Airways' CEO complained about these aggressive maneuvers, stating to his senior executives that such actions were “hurting [the rival airline's] profitability—and unfortunately everyone else's.” US Airways' senior management debated over email about how best to get the rival airline's attention and bring it back in line with the rest of the industry. In that email thread, US Airways' CEO urged the other executives to “portray[ ] these guys as idiots to Wall Street and anyone else who'll listen.” Ultimately, to make sure the message was received, US Airways' CEO forwarded the email chain—and its candid discussion about how aggressive competition would be bad for the industry—directly to the CEO of the rival airline. (The rival's CEO immediately responded that it was an inappropriate communication that he was referring to his general counsel.)
46. Coordination becomes easier as the number of major airlines dwindles and their business models converge. If not stopped, the merger would likely substantially enhance the ability of the industry to coordinate on fares, ancillary fees, and service reductions by creating, in the words of US Airways executives, a “Level Big 3”of network carriers, each with similar sizes, costs, and structures.
47. Southwest, the only major, non-network airline, and other smaller carriers have networks and business models that differ significantly from the legacy airlines. Traditionally, Southwest and other smaller carriers have been less likely to participate in coordinated pricing or service reductions. For example, Southwest does not charge customers for a first checked bag or ticket change fees. Yet that has not deterred the legacy carriers from continuing, and even increasing, those fees. In November 2011, a senior US Airways executive explained to her boss the reason: “Our employees know full well that the real competition for us is [American], [Delta], and [United]. Yes we compete with Southwest and JetBlue, but the product is different and the customer base is also different.”
1. The Merger Would Likely Result in the Elimination of US Airways' Advantage Fares
48. On routes where one legacy airline offers nonstop service, the other legacies “generally respect the pricing of the non-stop carrier,” as American has put it. Thus, if American offers nonstop service from Washington to Dallas at $800 round-trip, United and Delta will, “[d]espite having a service disadvantage,” price their connecting fares at the level of American's nonstop fares. The legacy carriers do this because if one airline, say Delta, were to undercut fares in markets where American offers nonstop service, American would likely do the same in Start Printed Page 71383Delta's nonstop markets. To Delta, the cost of being undercut in its nonstop markets exceeds the benefit it would receive from winning additional passengers in American nonstop markets.
49. US Airways, alone among the legacy carriers, has a different cost-benefit analysis for pricing connecting routes. Although it too is a national network carrier, US Airways has hubs in cities that generate less revenue from passengers flying nonstop than the other legacy airlines' hubs. Because US Airways' hubs generate less revenue from passengers flying nonstop, US Airways must gain more revenue from connecting passengers. It gets that revenue by offering connecting service that is up to 40% cheaper than other airlines' nonstop service. US Airways calls this program “Advantage Fares.”
50. Millions of consumers have benefitted. Advantage Fares offer consumers, especially those who purchase tickets at the last minute, meaningfully lower fares. The screenshot below from ITA Software, Airfare Matrix (“ITA”), taken on August 12, 2013, for travel departing on August 13 and returning August 14 from Miami to Cincinnati, shows the benefits of US Airways' Advantage Fare program to passengers
American is the only airline on this route to offer nonstop service, charging $740. Delta and United do not meaningfully compete. Both charge more for their connecting service than American charges for nonstop service. Thus, on this particular route, a passenger who chose Delta or United would pay more for an inferior product. In contrast, US Airways' fares today are significantly lower than American's fares, and offer consumers a real choice. Those consumers who are more price conscious receive the benefit of a substantially lower-fare option. In this case, a customer who purchased a US Airways one-stop ticket would save $269 compared to American's nonstop service.
51. The benefits from Advantage Fares extend to hundreds of other routes, including those where more than one carrier offers nonstop service. The screenshot below from ITA, taken on August 12, 2013, for travel departing on August 13 and returning August 14 from New York to Houston, demonstrates just how dramatic the savings can be:
US Airways' connecting fare is $870 cheaper than the other legacy carriers' nonstop flights, and beats JetBlue and AirTran's fares by more than $300. Although Southwest does not participate in the standard online travel sites, a cross-check against the Southwest Web site demonstrates that US Airways also beats Southwest's $887 nonstop fare by more than $300.
52. Other airlines have chosen to respond to Advantage Fares with their Start Printed Page 71384own low connecting fares in markets where US Airways has nonstop service. That is, the other legacy airlines undercut US Airways' nonstop fares the same way that US Airways undercuts their nonstop fares. The screenshot below from ITA, taken on August 12, 2013, for travel on August 13 and returning August 14 from Charlotte to Syracuse, shows how the other legacy carriers respond to Advantage Fares to the benefit of consumers:
Here, US Airways is the only airline to offer nonstop service, charging $685. Delta and United undercut that price by charging $375 and $395, respectively, for connecting service. Once again, consumers benefit by having the option of far less expensive connecting service. A customer who buys a Delta one-stop flight saves $310 over US Airways' nonstop service.
53. There are over 100 routes where other carriers offer nonstop service on which US Airways does not offer Advantage Fares. Consumers in these markets are not given the option of a low-cost connecting alternative and are forced to pay significantly more for service. For example, US Airways does not currently offer Advantage Fares on flights from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh. Without the option of a low connecting fare, consumers see significantly higher prices, as illustrated by a screenshot from ITA, taken on August 12, 2013, for travel on August 13 and returning August 14:
54. Advantage Fares have proven highly disruptive to the industry's overall coordinated pricing dynamic. An American executive expressed her frustration in September 2011 with US Airways' Advantage Fares, noting that US Airways was “still way undercutting us [on flights from Boston and New York to Dallas] and getting significant share.” One response American considered was to lower its fares on the same route. Another option was “to take up this battle w/them again,” in an attempt to force US Airways to limit or abandon its strategy.
55. US Airways' President acknowledged in September 2010 that its Advantage Fare strategy “would be different if we had a different route network. . . .” Currently, US Airways' network structure precludes Delta and United from preventing US Airways' aggressive “one-stop pricing.” Because US Airways' hubs have relatively less nonstop traffic, the other legacy airlines cannot respond sufficiently to make Advantage Fares unprofitable. But by increasing the size and scope of US Airways' network, the merger makes it likely that US Airways will have to discontinue its Advantage Fares.
56. American's executives agree. American believes that Advantage Fares will be eliminated because of the merger. Internal analysis at American in October 2012 concluded that “[t]he [Advantage Fares] program would have to be eliminated in a merger with American, as American's large non-stop markets would now be susceptible to reactionary pricing from Delta and United.” Another American executive observed that same month: “The industry will force alignment to a single approach—one that aligns with the large legacy carriers as it is revenue maximizing.”Start Printed Page 71385
57. US Airways believes that it currently gains “most of its advantage fare value from AA,” meaning that Advantage Fares provide substantial value for US Airways on routes where American is the legacy airline offering nonstop service. Post-merger, continuing Advantage Fares would mean that US Airways was taking that value away from itself by undercutting its own nonstop prices. Plainly, this would make no sense. Thus, for US Airways post-merger, the benefits of Advantage Fares would go down, and its costs would go up.
58. By ending Advantage Fares, the merger would eliminate lower fares for millions of consumers. Last year, more than 2.5 million round-trip passengers—including more than 250,000 passengers from the greater Washington, DC area; another 250,000 passengers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area; half a million passengers in the greater New York City area; and 175,000 passengers from Detroit—bought an Advantage Fare ticket. Hundreds of thousands of other passengers flying nonstop on US Airways, particularly from their hubs in Phoenix, Charlotte, and Philadelphia, benefited from responsive fares offered by the legacy airlines.
2. The Merger Would Likely Lead to Increased Industry-Wide “Capacity Discipline,” Resulting in Higher Fares and Less Service
59. Legacy airlines have taken advantage of increasing consolidation to exercise “capacity discipline.” “Capacity discipline” has meant restraining growth or reducing established service. The planned merger would be a further step in that industry-wide effort. In theory, reducing unused capacity can be an efficient decision that allows a firm to reduce its costs, ultimately leading to lower consumer prices. In the airline industry, however, recent experience has shown that capacity discipline has resulted in fewer flights and higher fares.
60. Each significant legacy airline merger in recent years has been followed by substantial reductions in service and capacity. These capacity reductions have not consisted simply of cancellation of empty planes or empty seats; rather, when airlines have cut capacity after a merger, the number of passengers they carry on the affected routes has also decreased.
61. US Airways has recognized that it benefitted from this industry consolidation and the resulting capacity discipline. US Airways has long taken the position that the capacity cuts achieved through capacity discipline “enabled” fare increases and that “pricing power” results from “reduced industry capacity.” US Airways' CEO explained to investors in 2006 that there is an “inextricable link” between removing seats and raising fares.
62. In 2005, America West—managed then by many of the same executives who currently manage US Airways—merged with US Airways. America West had hubs in Phoenix and Las Vegas while the former US Airways had hubs in Pittsburgh, Charlotte, and Philadelphia. Following the merger, the combined firm reduced capacity, including significant cuts in Pittsburgh and Las Vegas. In 2010, the Chief Financial Officer for US Airways explained:
We believe in the hub system. I just think there's too many hubs. If you look across the country, you can probably pick a few that are smaller hubs and maybe duplicative to other hubs that airlines have that they could probably get out of. In our example, we merged with US Airways [and] . . . what we have done over time, which is unfortunate for the cities, but we couldn't hold a hub in Pittsburgh and we couldn't hold a hub in Las Vegas. So over time we have consolidated and condensed our operation back, which is really important, condensed it back to our major hubs.
A post-merger US Airways analysis confirmed that it succeeded in obtaining a “3% to 4% capacity reduction.”
63. In 2006, on the heels of the America West/US Airways merger, the combined firm submitted an ultimately unsuccessful hostile bid for Delta Air Lines. US Airways' management had concluded that a merged US Airways/Delta could reduce the combined carrier's capacity by 10 percent, which would lead to higher revenues for the combined firm and for the industry. In 2007, following the rejection of the hostile bid, US Airways' CEO explained to investors how the deal would have increased industry profits:
It's part of what we tried to impress upon people as we were going through our run at Delta, was that * * * it was good for US Airways [and] good for the entire industry. We're going to take out 4% of the industry capacity as we did that. Everyone's 2008 numbers would look a (expletive) of a lot better had that transaction happened * * *
64. In 2008, Delta merged with Northwest Airlines. Despite promises to the contrary, the combined airline reduced capacity, including significant cuts at its former hubs in Cincinnati and Memphis. US Airways' CEO was “quite happy” to see the merger and advocated for further consolidation. He explained that an industry structure of “five different hub and spoke airlines with who knows how many hubs across the United States . . . results in all of us fighting for the same connecting passengers over numerous hubs.” Left unsaid was that fewer airlines meant less competition and higher fares.
65. In May 2010, United Airlines and Continental Airlines announced their planned merger. The announcement caused speculation about the future of each airline's hubs, including Continental's Cleveland hub. In Congressional testimony, an industry analyst stated that he did not believe the merger would cause reductions in Cleveland. On June 18, 2010, upon seeing the testimony, US Airways' CEO wrote an email to other US Airways executives stating, “[s]urely these guys [United/Continental] aren't really planning to keep Cleveland open. I'm hopeful they're just saying what they need to (including to [the analyst]) to get this approved.” United and Continental closed their deal on October 1, 2010. The combined firm has reduced capacity at nearly all of its major hubs (including Cleveland) and at many other airports where the two airlines previously competed. Similarly, Southwest/AirTran has reduced service in a number of its focus cities and on many of AirTran's former routes following its 2011 merger.
66. The defendants are fully aware of these earlier mergers' effects. A 2012 American Airlines analysis concluded that “following a merger, carriers tend to remove capacity or grow more slowly than the rest of the industry.” US Airways' management concluded that although industry consolidation has been a success, as its CEO stated publicly in 2010, the industry had yet to hit its “sweet spot,” and additional consolidation was needed because the industry remained “overly fragmented.”
67. A merger with American would allow US Airways to hit the “sweet spot.” For consumers, however, it would be anything but sweet. US Airways believes that merging with American “finishes industry evolution” by accomplishing US Airways' goal of “reduc[ing] capacity more efficiently.” When first considering a combination with American, US Airways projected that the merged firm could reduce capacity by as much as 10 percent. Similarly, American expects that the merger will lead to capacity reductions that would negatively impact “communities,” “people,” “customers,” and “suppliers.” Higher fares would be right around the corner.Start Printed Page 71386
3. The Planned Merger Would Likely Block American's Standalone Expansion Plans, Thwarting Likely Capacity Increases
68. American does not need this merger to thrive, let alone survive. Before the announcement of this merger, a key component of American's standalone plan for exiting bankruptcy revolved around substantial expansion, including increases in both domestic and international flights. Thus, in 2011, American placed the largest order for new aircraft in the industry's history.
69. US Airways executives feared that American's standalone growth plan would disrupt the industry's capacity discipline “momentum.” In a 2012 internal presentation, US Airways executives recognized that while “[i]ndustry mergers and capacity discipline expand margins,” American's standalone “growth plan has potential to disrupt the new dynamic” and would “Reverse Industry Capacity Trends.” Moreover, US Airways believed that if American implemented its growth plans, other airlines would “react to AMRs plans with their own enhanced growth plans destabilizing industry.” US Airways believed that American's standalone capacity growth would “negatively impact” industry revenues and threaten industry pricing.
70. US Airways thought that a merger with American was a “lower risk alternative” than letting American's standalone plan come to fruition because US Airways management could maintain capacity discipline. American's executives have observed that “the combined network would likely need to be rationalized,” especially given the merged carrier's numerous hubs, and that it is “unlikely that [a combined US Airways/American] would pursue growth. * * *”
4. The Merger Would Likely Result in Higher Fees
71. Since 2008, the airline industry has increasingly charged consumers fees for services that were previously included in the price of a ticket. These so-called ancillary fees, including those for checked bags and flight changes, have become very profitable. In 2012 alone, airlines generated over $6 billion in fees for checked bags and flight changes. Even a small increase in these fees would cost consumers millions.
72. Increased consolidation has likely aided the implementation of these fees. The levels of the ancillary fees charged by the legacy carriers have been largely set in lockstep. One airline acts as the “price leader,” with others following soon after. Using this process, as a US Airways strategic plan observed, the airlines can raise their fees without suffering “market share impacts.” For example, American announced that it would charge for a first checked bag on May 21, 2008. On June 12, 2008, both United and US Airways followed American's lead. Similarly, over a period of just two weeks this spring, all four legacy airlines increased their ticket change fee for domestic travel from $150 to $200.
73. The legacy airlines recognize that the success of any individual attempt to impose a new fee or fee increase depends on whether the other legacies follow suit. When, in July 2009, American matched the other legacy carriers by raising its checked bag fee to $20, but did not join the others in offering a $5 web discount, US Airways was faced with the decision of whether to “match” American by either eliminating its own web discount, or raising its price to $25, with a $5 discount. US Airways' CEO gave his view:
I can't believe I'm saying this, but I think we should stand still on this for now. I recognize that increases the chances of everyone standing still . . . the [dollars] aren't compelling enough for us to stick our necks out first. I do think D[elta] or U[nited] won't let them have an advantage, so it'll get matched—I'm just not sure we should go first. If a couple weeks go by and no one's moved, we can always jump in.
74. Similarly, when US Airways was considering whether to raise its second checked bag fee to $100 to match Delta's fee, a US Airways executive observed: “Wow—$100 is a lot for second bag. I would think there's big passenger gag reflex associated with that, but if we can get it, we should charge it. Do you think we should wait for [United] or [American] to move first, though?”
75. Conversely, in 2008, when US Airways began charging passengers for soft drinks, the other legacy airlines did not follow its lead, and US Airways backed off. US Airways' CEO explained: “With US Airways being the only network carrier to charge for drinks, we are at a disadvantage.” Had US Airways not rescinded this fee, it would have lost passengers to the other legacy airlines.
76. At times, the airlines consider new fees or fee increases, but hold off implementing them while they wait to see if other airlines will move first. For example, on April 18, United announced that it was increasing its ticket change fee from $150 to $200. American decided that “waiting for [Delta] and then moving to match if [Delta] comes along” would be its best strategy. Over the next two weeks, US Airways, Delta, and American each fell in line, leading a US Airways executive to observe on May 1: “A[merican] increased their change fees this morning. The network carriers now have the same $200 domestic . . . change fees.”
77. Post-merger, the new American would likely lead new fee increases. A December 2012 discussion between US Airways executives included the observation that after the merger, “even as the world's largest airline we'd want to consider raising some of the baggage fees a few dollars in some of the leisure markets.”
78. New checked bag fees on flights from the United States to Europe are a likely target. Both US Airways and American have considered imposing a first checked bag fee on flights to Europe but have refrained from doing so. US Airways seriously considered leading such a price move but was concerned that other airlines would not match: “We would hope that [other airlines] would follow us right away . . . but there is no guarantee. . . .” Ultimately, US Airways concluded it was “too small” to lead additional checked bag fees for flights to Europe. Post-merger, that would no longer be true. The merged firm would be the world's largest airline, giving it sufficient size to lead industry fee and price increases across the board.
79. Some fee increases are likely to result from US Airways raising American's existing fees. Today, “US Airways generally charges higher bag fees than AA” for travel from the United States to international destinations. Post-merger, US Airways would likely raise American's ancillary fees to US Airways' higher fee levels as part of a “fee harmonization” process. US Airways' own documents estimate that “fee harmonization” would generate an additional $280 million in revenue annually—directly harming consumers by the same amount. A US Airways presentation from earlier this year analyzing the merger identifies American's lower bag fees as a “value lever” that US Airways “will likely manage differently with tangible financial upside.” The analysis concludes that “[i]ncreasing AA baggage fees to match US creates significant revenue impact.” US Airways also plans to institute its fees ($40 on average) for the redemption of frequent flyer tickets on American's existing frequent fliers, who currently are not charged for mileage redemption.
80. The merger would also likely reduce the quality and variety of ancillary services offered by the legacy Start Printed Page 71387airlines—a side effect of consolidation anticipated and embraced by US Airways' CEO. In a 2011 email exchange lamenting the need for US Airways to deploy wireless internet on all of its airplanes, a senior US Airways executive groused:
[N]ext it will be more legroom. Then industry standard labor contracts. Then better wines. Then the ability to book on Facebook. Penultimately, television commercials. Then, finally, we will pay the NYSE an exorbitant fee to change our ticker symbol [from LCC].
US Airways' CEO responded: “Easy now. Consolidation will help stop much of the stupid stuff but inflight internet is not one of them.”
81. If the planned merger is enjoined, both American and US Airways will have to compete against two larger legacy rivals, and against each other. The four legacy airlines will not look exactly the same. As the smallest of the legacy airlines, American and US Airways will have greater incentives to grow and compete aggressively through lower ancillary fees, new services, and lower fares.
D. The Merger Would Eliminate Head-to-Head Competition in Hundreds of Relevant Markets and Entrench US Airways' Dominance at Reagan National Airport
82. American and US Airways engage in head-to-head competition with nonstop service on 17 domestic routes representing about $2 billion in annual industry-wide revenues. American and US Airways also compete directly on more than a thousand routes where one or both offer connecting service, representing billions of dollars in annual revenues. The merger's elimination of this head-to-head competition would create strong incentives for the merged airline to reduce capacity and raise fares where they previously competed.
83. The combined firm would control 69% of the slots at Reagan National Airport, almost six times more than its closest competitor. This would eliminate head-to-head competition at the airport between American and US Airways. It would also effectively foreclose entry or expansion by other airlines that might increase competition at Reagan National.
84. The need for slots is a substantial barrier to entry at Reagan National. The FAA has occasionally provided a limited number of slots for new service. In almost all cases, however, a carrier wishing to begin or expand service at Reagan National must buy or lease slots from an airline that already owns them.
85. This merger would thwart any prospect for future entry or expansion at Reagan National. US Airways, which already has 55% of the airport's slots, does not sell or lease them because any slot that goes to another airline will almost certainly be used to compete with US Airways. The merger would only increase US Airways' incentives to hoard its slots. Today, US Airways provides nonstop service to 71 airports from Reagan National, and it faces no nonstop competitors on 55 of those routes. After this merger, the number of US Airways routes with no nonstop competition would increase to 59, leaving, at best, only 21 routes at the entire airport with more than one nonstop competitor. Unsurprisingly, Reagan National is US Airways' second most-profitable airport.
86. Potential entrants would likely not be able to turn to other airlines to obtain slots. When allocating their slots, airlines prioritize their most profitable routes, typically those where they have a frequent, significant pattern of service. If a carrier has a small portfolio of slots, it is likely to allocate almost all of its slots to its most profitable routes. If it has additional slots beyond what is needed to serve those routes, a carrier will then work its way down to other routes or sell or lease those slots to other airlines. Over the last several years, US Airways has purchased nearly all of the slots that might otherwise be available to interested buyers. Thus, before this planned merger, American was the only airline at Reagan National with the practical ability to sell or lease additional slots.
87. In March 2010, American and JetBlue entered into an arrangement in which JetBlue traded slots at New York's JFK International Airport to American in exchange for American trading slots at Reagan National to JetBlue. And until American reached agreement with US Airways to merge, it had been negotiating to sell those slots and ten other Reagan National slots to JetBlue.
88. JetBlue's entry on four routes, particularly Reagan National to Boston, has generated stiff price competition. Fares on the route have dropped dramatically. US Airways estimated that after JetBlue's entry, the last-minute fare for travel between Reagan National and Boston dropped by over $700. The combined firm will have the right to terminate the JetBlue leases and thereby eliminate, or at least diminish, JetBlue as a competitor on some or all of these routes.
89. The merger would also eliminate the potential for future head-to-head competition between US Airways and American on flights at Reagan National. In 2011, US Airways planned to start service from Reagan National to Miami and St. Louis, which would directly compete with American's existing service. US Airways argued to the Department of Transportation that this new competition would “substantial[ly] benefit” consumers, and so asked DOT to approve the purchase of slots from Delta that would make the service possible. DOT ultimately approved that purchase. When it developed its plan to merge with American, however, US Airways abandoned its plans to enter those markets and deprived consumers of the “substantial benefits” it had promised.
90. By acquiring American's slot portfolio, US Airways would eliminate existing and future head-to-head competition, and effectively block other airlines' competitive entry or expansion.
VI. Absence of Countervailing Factors
91. New entry, or expansion by existing competitors, is unlikely to prevent or remedy the merger's likely anticompetitive effects. New entrants into a particular market face significant barriers to success, including difficulty in obtaining access to slots and gate facilities; the effects of corporate discount programs offered by dominant incumbents; loyalty to existing frequent flyer programs; an unknown brand; and the risk of aggressive responses to new entry by the dominant incumbent carrier. In addition, entry is highly unlikely on routes where the origin or destination airport is another airline's hub, because the new entrant would face substantial challenges attracting sufficient local passengers to support service.
92. United and Delta are unlikely to expand in the event of anticompetitive price increases or capacity reductions by the merged airline. Indeed, those carriers are likely to benefit from and participate in such conduct by coordinating with the merged firm.
93. The remaining airlines in the United States, including Southwest and JetBlue, have networks and business models that are significantly different from the legacy airlines. In particular, most do not have hub-and-spoke networks. In many relevant markets, these airlines do not offer any service at all, and in other markets, many passengers view them as a less preferred alternative to the legacy carriers. Therefore, competition from Southwest, JetBlue, or other airlines would not be sufficient to prevent the anticompetitive consequences of the merger.
94. There are not sufficient acquisition-specific and cognizable Start Printed Page 71388efficiencies that would be passed through to U.S. consumers to rebut the presumption that competition and consumers would likely be harmed by this merger.
VII. Violation Alleged
95. The effect of the proposed merger, if approved, likely will be to lessen competition substantially, or tend to create a monopoly, in interstate trade and commerce in the relevant markets, in violation of Section 7 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 18.
96. Unless enjoined, the proposed merger likely would have the following effects in the relevant markets, among others:
(a) Actual and potential competition between US Airways and American Airlines would be eliminated;
(b) competition in general among network airlines would be lessened substantially;
(c) ticket prices and ancillary fees would be higher than they otherwise would;
(d) industry capacity would be lower than it otherwise would;
(e) service would be lessened; and
(f) the availability of slots at Reagan National would be significantly impaired.
VIII. Request for Relief
97. Plaintiffs request:
(a) that US Airways' proposed merger with American Airlines be adjudged to violate Section 7 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 18;
(b) that Defendants be permanently enjoined from and restrained from carrying out the planned merger of US Airways and American or any other transaction that would combine the two companies;
(c) that Plaintiffs be awarded their costs of this action, including attorneys' fees to Plaintiff States; and
(d) that Plaintiffs be awarded such other relief as the Court may deem just and proper.
Dated this 13th day of August 2013.
For Plaintiff United States:
William J. Baer (D.C. Bar # 324723),
Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust
Renata B. Hesse (D.C. Bar #466107),
Deputy Assistant Attorney General
Patricia A. Brink,
Director of Civil Enforcement
Mark W. Ryan (D.C. Bar # 359098),
Director of Litigation
William H. Stallings (D.C. Bar #444924),
Chief Transportation, Energy & Agriculture Section
Kathleen S. O'Neill,
Assistant Chief Transportation, Energy & Agriculture Section
Ryan J. Danks*,
Attorney, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice, 450 Fifth Street NW., Suite 4100, Washington, DC 20530, Telephone: (202) 305-0128, Facsimile: (202) 307-2784, E-mail: Ryan.Danks@usdoj.gov.
Michael D. Billiel (D.C. Bar # 394377)
Katherine A. Celeste
J. Richard Doidge
Tracy L. Fisher
David Z. Gringer
Amanda D. Klovers
Caroline E. Laise
John M. Lynch (D.C. Bar # 418313)
William M. Martin
Jospeh Chandra Mazumdar
Robert D. Young (D.C. Bar # 248260)
Attorneys for the United States
*Attorney of Record
FOR PLAINTIFF STATE OF ARIZONA
Thomas C. Horne
Eric J. Bistrow
Chief, Public Advocacy & Civil Rights Division
Chief, Consumer Protection and Advocacy Section
Nancy M. Bonnell
Antitrust Unit Chief, Arizona Bar No. 016382, 1275 West Washington, Phoenix, Arizona 85007, Phone: 602-542-7728, Fax: 602-542-9088, Nancy.email@example.com.
For Plaintiff District of Columbia
Irvin B. Nathan
Attorney General for the District of Columbia
Ellen A. Efros
Deputy Attorney General, Public Interest Division
Bennett Rushkoff (DC Bar No. 386925)
Chief, Public Advocacy Section
Nicholas A. Bush (DC Bar No. 1011001)
Assistant Attorney General, 441 4th Street NW., Suite 600 South, Washington, DC 20001, Ph: 202-442-9841, Fax: 202-715-7720, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Attorneys for the District of Columbia
For Plaintiff State of Florida
Pamela Jo Bondi
Attorney General of the State of Florida
Patricia A. Conners
Associate Deputy Attorney General, Antitrust Division
Lizabeth A. Brady
Chief, Multistate Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Division
Christopher A. Hunt
Assistant Attorney General, Antitrust Division
Lizabeth A. Brady
Chief, Multistate Antitrust Enforcement, Florida Bar No. 0457991, PL-01, The Capitol, Tallahassee, FL 32399-1050, Ph: 850-414-2918, Fax: 850-488-9134, Liz.Brady@Myfloridalegal.com.
For Plaintiff Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Kathleen G. Kane
Adrian R. King, Jr.
First Deputy Attorney General
James A. Donahue, III
Executive Deputy Attorney General, Public Protection Division
Tracy W. Wertz
Acting Chief Deputy Attorney General, Antitrust Section
James A. Donahue, III
Executive Deputy Attorney Attorney General, PA Bar No. 42624, Public Protection Division, 14th Floor, Strawberry Square, Harrisburg, PA 17120, Ph: 717-787-4530, Fax: 717-787-1190, email@example.com.
For Plaintiff State of Tennesee
Robert E. Cooper, Jr.
Attorney General and Reporter
Victor J. Domen, Jr.
Senior Antitrust Counsel, Tennessee Bar No. 015803, 500 Charlotte Avenue, Nashville, TN 37202, Ph: 615-253-3327, Fax: 615-532-6951, Vic.Domen@ag.tn.gov.
For Plaintiff State of Texas
First Assistant Attorney General
John B. Scott
Deputy Attorney General for Civil Litigation
John T. Prud'homme
Chief, Consumer Protection Division
Kim Van Winkle
Chief, Antitrust Section, Consumer Protection Division
Assistant Attorney General, Texas Bar No. 24014555, 300 W. 15th Street, 7th Floor, Austin, Texas 78701, Ph: 512-936-1847, Fax: 512-320-0975, Mark.Levy@texasattorneygeneral.gov.
For Plaintiff Commonwealth of Virginia
Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, II
Patricia L. West
Chief Deputy Attorney General
Wesley G. Russell, Jr.
Deputy Attorney General, Civil Litigation Division
David B. Irvin
Senior Assistant Attorney General and Chief, Consumer Protection Section
Sarah Oxenham Allen
Assistant Attorney General, Consumer Protection Section, Virginia Bar No. 33217, Start Printed Page 71389Office of the Attorney General, 900 East Main Street, Richmond, VA 23219, Ph: 804-786-6557, Fax: 804-786-0122, SOAllen@oag.state.va.us.
Appendix A—City Pairs Where the Merger Is Presumptively Illegal
- HHIs in this appendix are calculated based on publicly available airline ticket revenue data from Department of Transportation's Airline Origin and Destination Survey (DB1B) database, available at: http://www.transtats.bts.gov/DatabaseInfo.asp?DB_ID=125&Link=0
- Routes are listed only once but include flights at all airports within the metropolitan area and in both directions. For example, the entry
|City pair route||Post- merger HHI||Δ HHI|
|Charlotte, NC (CLT)—Dallas, TX (DFW)||9319||4648|
includes flights from Charlotte, North Carolina, to airports in and around Dallas, Texas, including both Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) and Love Field (DAL), and it includes flights from both airports to Charlotte.Start Printed Page 71390 Start Printed Page 71391 Start Printed Page 71392 Start Printed Page 71393 Start Printed Page 71394 Start Printed Page 71395 Start Printed Page 71396
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al.
US AIRWAYS GROUP, INC.
Case No. 1:13-cv-01236 (CKK)
Judge: Colleen Kollar-Kotelly
Competitive Impact Statement
Pursuant to Section 2(b) of the Antitrust Procedures and Penalties Act (“APPA” or “Tunney Act”), 15 U.S.C. 16(b)-(h), Plaintiffs United States of America (“United States”) files this Competitive Impact Statement relating to the proposed Final Judgment submitted on November 12, 2013, for entry in this civil antitrust matter.
I. Nature and Purpose of the Proceeding
On August 13, 2013, the United States and the States of Arizona, Florida, Tennessee, Texas, the Commonwealths of Pennsylvania and Virginia, and the District of Columbia (“Plaintiff States”) filed a civil antitrust Complaint seeking to enjoin the proposed merger of Defendants US Airways Group, Inc. (“US Airways”) and AMR Corporation (“American”). The Complaint alleges that the likely effect of this merger would be to lessen competition substantially for the sale of scheduled air passenger service in city pair markets throughout the United States, and in the market for takeoff and landing authorizations (“slots”) at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (“Reagan National”) in violation of Section 7 of the Clayton Act as amended, 15 U.S.C. 18.
On November 12, 2013, the United States filed a proposed Final Judgment designed to remedy the harm to competition that was likely to result from the proposed merger. The proposed Final Judgment, which is explained more fully below, requires the divestiture of slots, gates, and ground facilities at key airports around the country to permit the entry or expansion of airlines that can provide meaningful competition in numerous markets, eliminate the significant increase in concentration of slots at Reagan National that otherwise would have occurred, and enhance the ability of low-cost carriers to compete with legacy carriers on a system-wide basis.
As set forth in the proposed Final Judgment, the Defendants are required to divest or transfer to purchasers approved by the United States, in consultation with the Plaintiff States:
- 104 air carrier slots  at Reagan National and rights and interests in any associated gates or other ground facilities, up to the extent such gates and ground facilities were used by Defendants to support the use of the divested slots;
- 34 slots at New York LaGuardia International Airport (“LaGuardia”) and rights and interests in any associated gates or other ground facilities, up to the extent such gates and ground facilities were used by Defendants to support the use of the divested slots; and
- rights and interests to two airport gates and associated ground facilities at each of the following airports: Chicago O'Hare International Airport (“ORD”), Los Angeles International Airport (“LAX”), Boston Logan International Airport (“BOS”), Miami International Airport (“MIA”), and Dallas Love Field (“DAL”).
The Reagan National and LaGuardia slots will be sold in bundles, under procedures approved by the United States, in consultation with the Plaintiff States.
Trial in this matter is scheduled to begin on November 25, 2013. Plaintiffs and Defendants have filed an Asset Preservation Order and Stipulation providing that: (1) Defendants are bound by the terms of the proposed Final Judgment, (2) the litigation will be stayed pending completion of the procedures called for by the APPA, and (3) the proposed Final Judgment may be entered after compliance with the APPA. Entry of the proposed Final Judgment would terminate this action, except that the Court would retain jurisdiction to construe, modify, or enforce the provisions of the proposed Final Judgment and to punish violations thereof.
II. Description of the Events Giving Rise to the Alleged Violation
A. The Defendants and the Proposed Transaction
US Airways is a Delaware corporation headquartered in Tempe, Arizona. Last year, it flew over fifty million passengers to approximately 200 locations worldwide, taking in more than $13 billion in revenue. US Airways operates hubs in Phoenix, Charlotte, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC.
American is a Delaware corporation headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas. AMR Corporation is the parent company of American Airlines. Last year, American flew over eighty million passengers to approximately 250 locations worldwide, taking in more than $24 billion in revenue. American operates hubs in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, and Miami. In November 2011, American filed for bankruptcy reorganization and is currently under the supervision of the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.
US Airways and American agreed to merge on February 13, 2013. US Airways shareholders would own 28 percent of the combined airline, while American shareholders, creditors, labor unions, and employees would own 72 percent. The merged airline would operate under the American brand name, but the new American would be run by US Airways management.
B. The Competitive Effects of the Transaction
1. Relevant Markets
Domestic scheduled air passenger service is a relevant product market within the meaning of Section 7 of the Clayton Act. Because air travel offers passengers significant time savings and convenience over other forms of travel, few passengers would substitute other modes of transportation (car, bus, or train) for scheduled air passenger service in response to a small but significant industry-wide fare increase.
City pairs are relevant geographic markets within the meaning of Section 7 of the Clayton Act. Passengers seek to depart from airports close to where they live and work, and arrive at airports close to their intended destinations. Most airline travel is related to business, family events, and vacations. Thus, most passengers book flights with their origins and destinations predetermined. Few passengers who wish to fly from one city to another would switch to flights between other cities in response to a small but significant and non-transitory fare increase.
Passengers traveling within city pairs have different preferences for factors such as nonstop service, the flexibility to purchase tickets or change plans at the last minute and, in cities served by more than one airport, the ability to fly in to or out of the airport most convenient to their home or intended destination. Through a variety of fare restrictions and rules, airlines can profitably raise prices for some of these passengers without raising prices for others. Thus, the competitive effects of Start Printed Page 71397the proposed merger may vary among passengers depending on their preferences for particular types of service or particular airports.
Slots at Reagan National Airport also constitute a relevant market within the meaning of Section 7 of the Clayton Act. Reagan National is across the Potomac River from Washington, DC, and, due to its proximity to the city and direct service via the Metro, airlines actively seek to serve passengers flying into and out of Reagan National. To serve Reagan National, a carrier must have “slots,” which are government-issued rights to take off and land. Reagan National is one of only four airports in the country requiring federally-issued slots. Slots at Reagan National are highly valued, difficult to obtain, and only rarely change hands between airlines. There are no alternatives to slots for airlines seeking to enter or expand their service at Reagan National.
2. Competitive Effects
As alleged in the Complaint, this merger would combine two of the four major “legacy” carriers, leaving “New American,” Delta, and United as the remaining major national network carriers. Those three carriers would have extensive national and international networks, connections to hundreds of destinations, established brand names, and strong frequent flyer reward programs. In contrast to the legacy carriers, other carriers (hereinafter referred to as “low-cost carriers” or “LCCs”), such as Southwest Airlines (“Southwest”), JetBlue Airways (“JetBlue”), Virgin America, Frontier Airlines, and Spirit Airlines, have less extensive networks and tend to focus more heavily on lower fares and other value propositions. Southwest carries the most domestic passengers of any airline, however, its route network is limited compared to the four current legacy carriers, especially to significant business-oriented markets. Although the LCCs serve fewer destinations than the legacy airlines, they generally offer important competition on the routes that they do serve.
This merger would leave three very similar legacy airlines—Delta, United, and the New American. By further reducing the number of legacy airlines and aligning the economic incentives of those that remain, the merger would make it easier for the remaining legacy airlines to cooperate, rather than compete, on price and service. Absent the merger, US Airways and American, as independent competitors, would have unique incentives to disrupt coordination that already occurs to some degree among the legacy carriers. US Airways' network structure provides the incentive to offer its “Advantage Fares” program, an aggressive discounting strategy aimed at undercutting the other airlines' nonstop fares with cheaper connecting service. American, having completed a successful reorganization in bankruptcy, would have the incentive, and indeed, it has announced the intention to undertake significant growth at the expense of its competitors. The merger would diminish these important competitive constraints.
The merger would also entrench the merged airline as the dominant carrier at Washington Reagan National Airport, where it would control 69 percent of the take-off and landing slots. The merger would eliminate head-to-head competition between American and US Airways on the routes they both serve from the airport and would effectively foreclose entry or expansion by other airlines that might increase competition at Reagan National.
Finally, the merger would eliminate head-to-head competition between US Airways and American on numerous non-stop and connecting routes.
3. Entry and Expansion
New entry, or expansion by existing competitors, would be unlikely to prevent or remedy the merger's likely anticompetitive effects absent the proposed divestitures. Operational barriers limit entry and expansion at a number of important airports. Four of the busiest airports in the United States—including Reagan National and LaGuardia—are subject to slot limitations governed by the FAA. The lack of availability of slots is a substantial barrier to entry at those airports, especially for low-cost carriers. Slots at these airports are concentrated in the hands of large legacy airlines that have little incentive to sell or lease slots to those carriers most likely to compete aggressively against them. As a result, slots are expensive, difficult to obtain, and change hands only rarely.
Access to gates can also be a substantial barrier to entry or expansion at some airports. At several large airports, a significant portion of the available gates are leased to established airlines under long-term exclusive-use leases. In such cases, a carrier seeking to enter or expand would have to sublease gates from incumbent airlines.
In addition to operational constraints, new entrants and those seeking to expand must overcome the effects of corporate discount programs offered by dominant incumbents; loyalty to existing frequent flyer programs; a less well-known brand; and the risk of aggressive responses to new entry by the dominant incumbent carrier. However, especially in large cities, low-cost carriers have demonstrated some ability to overcome those disadvantages with the help of lower costs, when they are able to obtain access to the necessary airport facilities.
III. Explanation of the Proposed Final Judgment
The Complaint alleges several ways that the elimination of US Airways and American as independent competitors will result in harm to consumers. As things stand today, each carrier places important competitive constraints on the other large network carriers. US Airways undercuts the nonstop fares of legacy carriers through its Advantage Fares program. American had planned to fly more planes. The Complaint alleges that the merger will diminish New American's incentives to maintain these strategies and increase its incentives to coordinate with the other legacy carriers rather than compete. The Complaint also alleges harm resulting from increased slot concentration at DCA.
The proposed remedy seeks to address both the harm resulting from increased slot concentration at DCA and the broader harms alleged in the Complaint by requiring the divestiture of an unprecedented quantity of valuable facilities at seven of the most important airports in the United States. The access to key airports made possible by the divestitures will create network opportunities for the purchasing carriers that would otherwise have been out of reach for the foreseeable future. Those opportunities will provide increased incentives for those carriers to invest in new capacity and expand into additional markets.
The proposed remedy will not create a new independent competitor, nor does it purport to replicate American's capacity expansion plans or create Advantage Fares where they might otherwise be eliminated. Instead, it promises to impede the industry's evolution toward a tighter oligopoly by requiring the divestiture of critical facilities to carriers that will likely use them to fly more people to more places at more competitive fares. In this way, the proposed remedy will deliver benefits to consumers that could not be obtained by enjoining the merger.
The divestiture of 104 air carrier slots at Reagan National and 34 slots at Start Printed Page 71398LaGuardia will not only address the localized competitive concerns at those airports, but will deliver substantial additional benefits. American and US Airways currently compete head-to-head on two routes from Reagan National (Raleigh-Durham and Nashville) and one route from LaGuardia (Charlotte). In addition, JetBlue and Southwest offer service on a limited number of routes at these airports through use of slots leased from American on terms that could be renegotiated or cancelled by the New American. Through the remedy, Southwest and JetBlue will have the opportunity to obtain permanent access to the slots they are currently leasing from American, and those LCCs and others will have the opportunity to acquire more slots at DCA and at LGA as well. This will allow them to provide greatly expanded service on numerous routes, including new nonstop and connecting service to points throughout the country.
Similarly, gate divestitures at O'Hare (ORD), Los Angeles (LAX), Boston (BOS), Dallas Love Field (DAL), and Miami (MIA) would expand the presence of potentially disruptive competitors at these strategically important airports located throughout the country. ORD and LAX, two of American's major hubs, are among the most highly congested airports in the country, and competitors have historically had difficulties obtaining access to gates and other facilities at those airports to be able to enter or expand service. The divestitures will give competing carriers an expanded foothold at these important airports in the center of the country and the west coast, respectively. Likewise, there is limited ability to enter or expand at BOS; the divestitures will provide relief there. Although access issues at Miami are not as acute as at the other airports, the proposed Final Judgment also ensures that a carrier seeking to enter or expand at Miami will have access to two of the gates and associated ground facilities currently leased by US Airways.
The proposed Final Judgment also includes divestitures at Dallas Love Field, an airport near American's largest hub at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (“DFW”). Gates at DFW are readily available, but Love Field, which is much closer to downtown Dallas, is highly gate-constrained. Although today operations at Love Field are severely restricted under current law, those restrictions are due to expire in October 2014, at which point Love Field will have a distinct advantage versus DFW, particularly in serving business customers. The divestitures will position a low-cost carrier to provide vigorous competition to the New American's nonstop and connecting service out of DFW.
Past antitrust enforcement demonstrates that providing LCCs with access to constrained airports results in dramatic consumer benefits. In 2010, in response to the United States' concerns regarding competitive effects of the proposed United/Continental merger, United and Continental transferred 36 slots, three gates and other facilities at Newark to Southwest. Southwest used those assets to establish service on six nonstop routes from Newark, resulting in substantially lower fares to consumers. For example, average fares for travel between Newark and St. Louis dropped 27% and fares for travel between Newark and Houston dropped 15%. In addition, Southwest established connecting service to approximately 60 additional cities throughout the United States.
The proposed remedy will require the divestiture of almost four times as many slots as were divested at the time of the United/Continental merger, plus gates and additional facilities at key airports throughout the country. In total, the divestitures will significantly strengthen the purchasing carriers, provide the incentive and ability for those carriers to invest in new capacity, and position them to provide more meaningful competition system-wide.
A. The Divestiture of Slots at Reagan National
Section IV.F of the Proposed Final Judgment requires that the New American permanently divest 104 air carrier slots at Reagan National, two of which shall be slots currently held by US Airways and the remainder from American, including 16 slots American currently leases to JetBlue in exchange for slots at John F. Kennedy International Airport. New American will offer to make the slot exchange with JetBlue permanent. The remaining 88 slots (plus any of the 16 traded slots that JetBlue declines) will be divided into bundles, taking into account specific slot times to ensure commercially viable and competitive patterns of service for the recipients of the divested slots. New American will divest these slot bundles to at least two different carriers approved by the United States in its sole discretion, in consultation with the Plaintiff States.
In addition, New American will either sublease or transfer to the purchaser of any Reagan National slots, gates and other ground facilities (e.g., ticket counters, hold-rooms, leased jet bridges, and operations space), up to the extent such gates and facilities were used by Defendants to support the use of the divested slots, on the same terms and conditions pursuant to which the New American currently leases those facilities.
Following the divestiture of the Reagan National slots, if requested by the purchasers, Defendants shall lease back the slots for no consideration for a period not to exceed 180 calendar days, or as may be extended at the request of the purchaser, with the approval of the United States, in consultation with the Plaintiff States. The value of this rent-free lease back will naturally be reflected in the purchase price of the slots. A transfer of this magnitude will naturally entail a transition period for both the acquirers and the Defendants. The lease-back provisions are designed to allow purchasers sufficient time to institute new service while incentivizing them to establish that service reasonably quickly.
B. The Divestiture of Slots and Facilities at LaGuardia
Section IV.G of the Proposed Final Judgment requires that New American permanently divest 34 air carrier slots at LGA. New American will offer to divest to Southwest on commercially reasonable terms the 10 slots Southwest currently leases from American. The United States will identify the remaining 24 slots to be divested taking into account specific slot times to ensure commercially viable and competitive patterns of service for the recipients of the divested slots. The 24 slots (in addition to any of the 10 leased slots that Southwest declines) will be divided into bundles and divested to carriers approved by the United States in its sole discretion, in consultation with the Plaintiff States.
In addition, New American will either sublease or transfer to the purchaser of any LaGuardia slots gates and other ground facilities (e.g., ticket counters, hold-rooms, leased jet bridges, and Start Printed Page 71399operations space), up to the extent such gates and facilities were used by Defendants to support the use of the divested slots, on the same terms and conditions pursuant to which the New American currently leases those facilities. With respect to gates, New American will make reasonable best efforts to facilitate any gate moves necessary to ensure that the purchasing carrier can operate contiguous gates.
Following the divestiture of the LaGuardia slots, if requested by the purchasers, Defendants shall lease back the slots for no consideration for a period not to exceed 180 calendar days, or as may be extended at the request of the purchaser, with the approval of the United States, in consultation with the Plaintiff States. The value of this rent-free lease back will naturally be reflected in the purchase price of the slots. A transfer of this magnitude will naturally entail a transition period for both the acquirers and the Defendants. The lease-back provisions are designed to allow purchasers sufficient time to institute new service while incentivizing them to establish that service reasonably quickly.
C. The Divestiture of Gates at Other Key Airports
Section IV.H of the Proposed Final Judgment requires that New American will transfer, consistent with the practices of the relevant airport authority, to another carrier or carriers approved by DOJ in its sole discretion, in consultation with the Plaintiff States, all rights and interests in two gates, to be identified and approved by DOJ in its sole discretion, in consultation with the Plaintiff States, and provide reasonable access to ground facilities (e.g., ticket counters, baggage handling facilities, office space, loading bridges) at each of: ORD, LAX, BOS, MIA, DAL on commercial terms and conditions identical to those pursuant to which the gates and facilities are leased to New American. New American will make reasonable best efforts to facilitate any gate moves necessary to ensure that the transferee can operate contiguous gates.
D. Divestiture Trustee
In the event the Defendants do not accomplish the divestitures as prescribed by the proposed Final Judgment, Section V of the proposed Final Judgment provides that the Court will appoint a Divestiture Trustee selected by the United States, in consultation with the Plaintiff States, to complete the divestitures. If a Divestiture Trustee is appointed, the proposed Final Judgment provides that the Defendants will pay all costs and expenses of the Divestiture Trustee. After his or her appointment becomes effective, the Divestiture Trustee will file monthly reports with the Court and the United States setting forth his or her efforts to accomplish the divestiture.
E. Monitoring Trustee
Section VII of the proposed Final Judgment permits the United States, in consultation with the Plaintiff States, to appoint a Monitoring Trustee, subject to approval by the Court. If a Monitoring Trustee is appointed, the proposed Final Judgment provides that the Defendants will pay all costs and expenses of the Monitoring Trustee. After his or her appointment becomes effective, the Monitoring Trustee will file reports with the Court and the United States every ninety days or more frequently as needed setting forth the Defendants' efforts to comply with the terms of the Final Judgment.
F. Prohibition on Reacquisition
Section XII of the proposed Final Judgment prohibits the merged company from reacquiring an ownership interest in the divested slots or gates during the term of the Final Judgment. The proposed Final Judgment will not prevent New American from engaging in short-term trades or exchanges involving the divested slots at Reagan National or LGA for scheduling purposes.
G. Future Transactions
The proposed Final Judgment requires Defendants to provide advance notification of any future slot acquisition at Reagan National by the merged company, regardless of whether the transaction meets the reporting thresholds set forth in the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 18a (the “HSR Act”). The proposed Final Judgment further provides for waiting periods and opportunities for the United States to obtain additional information analogous to the provisions of the HSR Act.
H. Stipulation and Order Provisions
Defendants have entered into the Stipulation and Order attached as an exhibit to the Explanation of Consent Decree Procedures, which was filed simultaneously with the Court, to ensure that, pending the divestitures, the Divestiture Assets are maintained. The Stipulation and Order ensures that the Divestiture Assets are preserved and maintained in a condition that allows the divestitures to be effective.
IV. Remedies Available to Potential Private Litigants
Section 4 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 15, provides that any person who has been injured as a result of conduct prohibited by the antitrust laws may bring suit in federal court to recover three times the damages the person has suffered, as well as costs and reasonable attorneys' fees. Entry of the proposed Final Judgment will neither impair nor assist the bringing of any private antitrust damage action. Under the provisions of Section 5(a) of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 16(a), the proposed Final Judgment has no prima facie effect in any subsequent private lawsuit that may be brought against Defendants.
V. Procedures Available for Modification of the Proposed Final Judgment
The United States and Defendants have stipulated that the proposed Final Judgment may be entered by the Court after compliance with the provisions of the APPA, provided that the United States has not withdrawn its consent. The APPA conditions entry upon the Court's determination that the proposed Final Judgment is in the public interest.
The APPA provides a period of at least sixty (60) days preceding the effective date of the proposed Final Judgment within which any person may submit to the United States written comments regarding the proposed Final Judgment. Any person who wishes to comment should do so within sixty (60) days of the date of publication of this Competitive Impact Statement in the Federal Register, or the last date of publication in a newspaper of the summary of this Competitive Impact Statement, whichever is later. All comments received during this period will be considered by the United States Department of Justice, which remains free to withdraw its consent to the proposed Final Judgment at any time prior to the Court's entry of judgment. The comments and the response of the United States will be filed with the Court. In addition, comments will be posted on the U.S. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division's internet Web site and, under certain circumstances, published in the Federal Register.
Written comments should be submitted to: William H. Stallings, Chief, Transportation, Energy & Agriculture Section Antitrust Division, United States Department of Justice, 450 Fifth Street NW., Suite 8000, Washington, DC 20530.
The proposed Final Judgment provides that the Court retains Start Printed Page 71400jurisdiction over this action, and the parties may apply to the Court for any order necessary or appropriate for the modification, interpretation, or enforcement of the Final Judgment.
VI. Alternatives to the Proposed Final Judgment
The United States considered, as an alternative to the proposed Final Judgment, a full trial on the merits against the Defendants. The United States could have continued the litigation and sought preliminary and permanent injunctions against the proposed merger. However, the proposed Final Judgment avoids the time, expense, and uncertainty of a full trial on the merits. Moreover, the United States is satisfied that the divestiture of assets described in the proposed Final Judgment is an appropriate remedy. The proposed relief will facilitate entry and expansion by low-cost carriers at key slot-constrained and gate-constrained airports, thereby enhancing the ability of the purchasing carrier(s) to provide meaningful competition to New American and other legacy carriers.
VII. Standard of Review Under the APPA for the Proposed Final Judgment
The Clayton Act, as amended by the APPA, requires that proposed consent judgments in antitrust cases brought by the United States be subject to a sixty-day comment period, after which the court shall determine whether entry of the proposed Final Judgment “is in the public interest.” 15 U.S.C. 16(e)(1). In making that determination, the court, in accordance with the statute as amended in 2004, is required to consider:
(A) the competitive impact of such judgment, including termination of alleged violations, provisions for enforcement and modification, duration of relief sought, anticipated effects of alternative remedies actually considered, whether its terms are ambiguous, and any other competitive considerations bearing upon the adequacy of such judgment that the court deems necessary to a determination of whether the consent judgment is in the public interest; and
(B) the impact of entry of such judgment upon competition in the relevant market or markets, upon the public generally and individuals alleging specific injury from the violations set forth in the complaint including consideration of the public benefit, if any, to be derived from a determination of the issues at trial.
15 U.S.C. 16(e)(1)(A) & (B). In considering these statutory factors, the court's inquiry is necessarily a limited one as the government is entitled to “broad discretion to settle with the defendant within the reaches of the public interest.” United States v. Microsoft Corp., 56 F.3d 1448, 1461 (D.C. Cir. 1995); see generally United States v. SBC Commc'ns, Inc., 489 F. Supp. 2d 1 (D.D.C. 2007) (assessing public interest standard under the Tunney Act); United States v. InBev N.V./S.A., 2009-2 Trade Cas. (CCH) ¶ 76,736, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84787, No. 08-1965 (JR), at *3, (D.D.C. Aug. 11, 2009) (noting that the court's review of a consent judgment is limited and only inquires “into whether the government's determination that the proposed remedies will cure the antitrust violations alleged in the complaint was reasonable, and whether the mechanism to enforce the final judgment are clear and manageable.”).
As the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has held, under the APPA a court considers, among other things, the relationship between the remedy secured and the specific allegations set forth in the government's complaint, whether the decree is sufficiently clear, whether enforcement mechanisms are sufficient, and whether the decree may positively harm third parties. See Microsoft, 56 F.3d at 1458-62. With respect to the adequacy of the relief secured by the decree, a court may not “engage in an unrestricted evaluation of what relief would best serve the public.” United States v. BNS, Inc., 858 F.2d 456, 462 (9th Cir. 1988) (citing United States v. Bechtel Corp., 648 F.2d 660, 666 (9th Cir. 1981)); see also Microsoft, 56 F.3d at 1460-62; United States v. Alcoa, Inc., 152 F. Supp. 2d 37, 40 (D.D.C. 2001); InBev, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84787, at *3. Courts have held that:
[t]he balancing of competing social and political interests affected by a proposed antitrust consent decree must be left, in the first instance, to the discretion of the Attorney General. The court's role in protecting the public interest is one of insuring that the government has not breached its duty to the public in consenting to the decree. The court is required to determine not whether a particular decree is the one that will best serve society, but whether the settlement is “within the reaches of the public interest.” More elaborate requirements might undermine the effectiveness of antitrust enforcement by consent decree.
Bechtel, 648 F.2d at 666 (emphasis added) (citations omitted). In determining whether a proposed settlement is in the public interest, a district court “must accord deference to the government's predictions about the efficacy of its remedies, and may not require that the remedies perfectly match the alleged violations.” SBC Commc'ns, 489 F. Supp. 2d at 17; see also Microsoft, 56 F.3d at 1461 (noting the need for courts to be “deferential to the government's predictions as to the effect of the proposed remedies”); United States v. Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., 272 F. Supp. 2d 1, 6 (D.D.C. 2003) (noting that the court should grant due respect to the United States' prediction as to the effect of proposed remedies, its perception of the market structure, and its views of the nature of the case).
Courts have greater flexibility in approving proposed consent decrees than in crafting their own decrees following a finding of liability in a litigated matter. “[A] proposed decree must be approved even if it falls short of the remedy the court would impose on its own, as long as it falls within the range of acceptability or is `within the reaches of public interest.'” United States v. Am. Tel. & Tel. Co., 552 F. Supp. 131, 151 (D.D.C. 1982) (citations omitted) (quoting United States v. Gillette Co., 406 F. Supp. 713, 716 (D. Mass. 1975)), aff'd sub nom. Maryland v. United States, 460 U.S. 1001 (1983); see also United States v. Alcan Aluminum Ltd., 605 F. Supp. 619, 622 (W.D. Ky. 1985) (approving the consent decree even though the court would have imposed a greater remedy). To meet this standard, the United States “need only provide a factual basis for concluding that the settlements are reasonably adequate remedies for the alleged harms.” SBC Commc'ns, 489 F. Supp. 2d at 17.
Moreover, the court's role under the APPA is limited to reviewing the remedy in relationship to the violations that the United States has alleged in its Complaint, and does not authorize the court to “construct [its] own hypothetical case and then evaluate the decree against that case.” Microsoft, 56 F.3d at 1459; see also InBev, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84787, at *20 (“the `public interest' is not to be measured by comparing the violations alleged in the complaint against those the court Start Printed Page 71401believes could have, or even should have, been alleged”). Because the “court's authority to review the decree depends entirely on the government's exercising its prosecutorial discretion by bringing a case in the first place,” it follows that “the court is only authorized to review the decree itself,” and not to “effectively redraft the complaint” to inquire into other matters that the United States did not pursue. Microsoft, 56 F.3d at 1459-60. As this Court confirmed in SBC Communications, courts “cannot look beyond the complaint in making the public interest determination unless the complaint is drafted so narrowly as to make a mockery of judicial power.” SBC Commc'ns, 489 F. Supp. 2d at 15.
In its 2004 amendments, Congress made clear its intent to preserve the practical benefits of utilizing consent decrees in antitrust enforcement, adding the unambiguous instruction that “[n]othing in this section shall be construed to require the court to conduct an evidentiary hearing or to require the court to permit anyone to intervene.” 15 U.S.C. 16(e)(2). The language wrote into the statute what Congress intended when it enacted the Tunney Act in 1974, as Senator Tunney explained: “[t]he court is nowhere compelled to go to trial or to engage in extended proceedings which might have the effect of vitiating the benefits of prompt and less costly settlement through the consent decree process.” 119 Cong. Rec. 24,598 (1973) (statement of Senator Tunney). Rather, the procedure for the public interest determination is left to the discretion of the court, with the recognition that the court's “scope of review remains sharply proscribed by precedent and the nature of Tunney Act proceedings.” SBC Commc'ns, 489 F. Supp. 2d at 11.
VIII. Determinative Documents
There are no determinative materials or documents within the meaning of the APPA that were considered by the United States in formulating the proposed Final Judgment.
Dated: November 12, 2013
Michael D. Billiel (DC BAR # 394377)
Attorney, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice, 450 Fifth Street, NW., Suite 4100, Washington, DC 20530, Telephone: (202) 307-6666, Facsimile: (202) 307-2784, Email: Michael.Billiel@usdoj.gov.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al.
US AIRWAYS GROUP, INC.
Case No. 1:13-cv-01236 (CKK)
Judge: Colleen Kollar-Kotelly
Proposed Final Judgment
Whereas, Plaintiffs United States of America (“United States”) and the States of Arizona, Florida, Tennessee and Michigan, the Commonwealths of Pennsylvania and Virginia, and the District of Columbia (“Plaintiff States”) filed their Complaint against Defendants US Airways Group, Inc. (“US Airways”) and AMR Corporation (“American”) on August 13, 2013, as amended on September 5, 2013;
And whereas, the United States and the Plaintiff States and Defendants, by their respective attorneys, have consented to the entry of this Final Judgment without trial or adjudication of any issue of fact or law, and without this Final Judgment constituting any evidence against or admission by any party regarding any issue of fact or law;
And whereas, Defendants agree to be bound by the provisions of the Final Judgment pending its approval by the Court;
And whereas, the essence of this Final Judgment is the prompt and certain divestiture of certain rights or assets by the Defendants to assure that competition is not substantially lessened;
And whereas, the Final Judgment requires Defendants to make certain divestitures for the purposes of remedying the loss of competition alleged in the Complaint;
And whereas, Defendants have represented to the United States and the Plaintiff States that the divestitures required below can and will be made, and that the Defendants will later raise no claim of hardship or difficulty as grounds for asking the Court to modify any of the provisions below;
Now therefore, before any testimony is taken, without trial or adjudication of any issue of fact or law, and upon consent of the parties, it is ordered, adjudged, and decreed:
This Court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of and each of the parties to this action. The Complaint states a claim upon which relief can be granted against Defendants US Airways and American under Section 7 of the Clayton Act as amended (15 U.S.C. 18).
As used in the Final Judgment:
A. “Acquirer” or “Acquirers” means the entity or entities, approved by the United States in its sole discretion in consultation with the Plaintiff States, to which Defendants may divest all or specified parts of the Divestiture Assets.
B. “American” means Defendant AMR Corporation, its parents, successors and assigns, divisions, subsidiaries, affiliates, partnerships and joint ventures; and all directors, officers, employees, agents, and representatives of the foregoing. As used in this definition, the terms “parent,” “subsidiary,” “affiliate,” and “joint venture” refer to any person or entity in which American holds, directly or indirectly, a majority (greater than 50 percent) or total ownership or control or which holds, directly or indirectly a majority (greater than 50 percent) or total ownership or control in American.
C. “Associated Ground Facilities” means the facilities owned or operated by Defendants and reasonably necessary for Acquirer(s) to operate the Divested Assets at the relevant airport, including, but not limited to, ticket counters, hold-rooms, leased jet bridges, and operations space.
D. “DCA Gates and Facilities” means all rights and interests held by Defendants in the gates at Washington Reagan National Airport (“DCA”) described in Exhibit A and in the Associated Ground Facilities, up to the extent such gates and Associated Ground Facilities were used by Defendants to support the use of the DCA Slots.
E. “DCA Slots” means all rights and interests held by Defendants in the 104 slots at DCA listed in Exhibit A, consisting of two air carrier slots held by US Airways at DCA and 102 air carrier slots held by American at DCA, including the JetBlue Slots.
F. “Divestiture Assets” means (1) the DCA Slots, (2) the DCA Gates and Facilities, (3) the LGA Slots, (4) the LGA Gates and Facilities, and (5) the Key Airport Gates and Facilities.Start Printed Page 71402
G. “JetBlue Slots” means all rights and interests held by Defendants in the 16 slots at DCA currently leased by American to JetBlue Airways, Inc., listed in Exhibit A.
H. “Key Airport” means each of the following airports: (1) Boston Logan International Airport; (2) Chicago O'Hare International Airport; (3) Dallas Love Field; (4) Los Angeles International Airport; and (5) Miami International Airport.
I. “Key Airport Gates and Facilities” means all rights and interests held by Defendants in two gates at each Key Airport as described in Exhibit C. The term “Key Airport Gates and Facilities” includes Associated Ground Facilities, up to the extent such facilities were used by Defendants to support the gates described in Exhibit C.
J. “LGA Gates and Facilities” means all rights and interests held by Defendants in the gates at New York LaGuardia Airport (“LGA”) described in Exhibit B and Associated Ground Facilities up to the extent of such gates and Associated Ground Facilities were used by Defendants to support the use of the LGA Slots.
K. “LGA Slots” means the 34 slots at New York LaGuardia Airport (“LGA”) listed in Exhibit B, consisting of the Southwest Slots and 24 additional slots held by American or US Airways.
L. “Slot Bundles” means groupings of DCA Slots and LGA Slots, as determined by the United States in its sole discretion in consultation with the Plaintiff States.
M. “Southwest Slots” means the 10 slots at LGA currently leased by American to Southwest Airlines, Inc. listed in Exhibit B.
N. “Transaction” means the transaction referred to in the Agreement and Plan of Merger among AMR Corporation, AMR Merger Sub, Inc., and US Airways Group, Inc., dated as of February 13, 2013.
O. “US Airways” means Defendant US Airways Group, Inc., its parents, successors and assigns, divisions, subsidiaries, affiliates, partnerships and joint ventures; and all directors, officers, employees, agents, and representatives of the foregoing. For purposes of this definition, the terms “parent,” “subsidiary,” “affiliate,” and “joint venture” refer to any person or entity in which US Airways holds, directly or indirectly, a majority (greater than 50 percent) or total ownership or control or which holds, directly or indirectly, a majority (greater than 50 percent) or total ownership or control in US Airways.
A. This Final Judgment applies to Defendants and all other persons in active concert or participation with any of them who receive actual notice of this Final Judgment by personal service or otherwise.
B. If, prior to complying with Section IV and V of this Final Judgment, a Defendant directly or indirectly sells or otherwise disposes of any of the Divestiture Assets, it shall require the purchaser of the Divestiture Assets to be bound by the provisions of this Final Judgment. Defendants need not obtain such an agreement from the Acquirer(s) of the assets divested pursuant to this Final Judgment.
A. Subject to any necessary approval of the Federal Aviation Administration, Defendants are ordered and directed to divest the DCA Slots and LGA Slots to Acquirers in a manner consistent with this Final Judgment within ninety (90) calendar days after the later of (1) completion of the Transaction or (2) the United States providing Defendants a list of the Acquirers and Slot Bundles.
B. Subject to any necessary approval of the relevant airport operator, Defendants are ordered and directed to transfer the DCA Gates and Facilities as necessary to Acquirers of the DCA Slots within ninety (90) days after completion of the divestiture of the DCA Slots.
C. Subject to any necessary approval of the relevant airport operator, Defendants are ordered and directed to transfer the LGA Gates and Facilities as necessary to Acquirer(s) of the LGA Slots within ninety (90) days after completion of the divestiture of the LGA Slots.
D. Subject to any necessary approval of the relevant airport operator, Defendants are ordered and directed to divest the Key Airport Gates and Facilities to Acquirer(s) in a manner consistent with this Final Judgment within 180 calendar days after the later of (1) completion of the Transaction or (2) the United States providing Defendants a list of the Acquirers.
E. All proceeds from the transfer of the DCA Slots and the LGA Slots are for the account of Defendants. Defendants agree to use their best efforts to divest the Divestiture Assets as expeditiously as possible. The United States in its sole discretion, may agree to one or more extensions of each of the time periods specified in Sections IV.A.—IV.D., not to exceed sixty (60) calendar days in total for each such time period, and shall extend any time period by the number of days during which there is pending any objection under Section VI of this Final Judgment. The United States shall notify the Court of any extensions of the time periods.
F. The Court orders the divestiture of the DCA Slots and DCA Gates and Facilities to proceed as follows:
1. Defendants shall offer to divest the 16 JetBlue Slots to JetBlue Airways, Inc., by making permanent the current agreement between JetBlue and American to exchange the JetBlue Slots for slots at John F. Kennedy International Airport;
2. Defendants shall divest in Slot Bundles to at least two Acquirers the other 88 DCA slots listed in Exhibit A, together with any of the JetBlue Slots not sold to JetBlue pursuant to paragraph IV.F.1. above;
3. Defendants shall either (a) sublease to Acquirers of the DCA Slots, the DCA Gates and Facilities on the same terms and conditions pursuant to which the Defendants currently lease the DCA Gates and Facilities or, (b) with the consent of the United States, pursuant to an agreement with the airport operator, relinquish the DCA Gates and Facilities to the airport operator to enable the Acquirer to lease them from the airport operator on terms and conditions determined by the airport operator, and shall make best efforts to obtain any consent or approval from the relevant airport operator for the divestitures required by this paragraph;
4. Following the divestiture of the DCA Slots, if requested by an Acquirer, Defendants shall lease the DCA Slots from the Acquirer for no consideration for a period not to exceed 180 calendar days. Defendants shall continue to operate the DCA Slots during this lease-back period at a level sufficient to prevent the DCA Slots from reverting to the Federal Aviation Administration pursuant to 14 CFR 93.227. The lease-back period may be extended at the sole discretion of the Acquirer(s), with the approval of the United States, in consultation with the Plaintiff States.
G. The Court orders the divestiture of the LGA Slots and LGA Gates and Facilities to proceed as follows:
1. Defendants shall offer to divest the ten Southwest Slots to Southwest Airlines, Inc.;
2. Defendants shall divest in Slot Bundles to Acquirer(s) the other 24 LGA slots listed in Exhibit B, together with any of the Southwest Slots not sold to Southwest pursuant to Paragraph IV.G.1. above;
3. Defendants shall either (a) sublease to the Acquirer(s) of the LGA Slots, the LGA Gates and Facilities on the same terms and conditions pursuant to which the Defendants currently lease the LGA Start Printed Page 71403Gates and Facilities or, (b) with the consent of the United States, pursuant to an agreement with the airport operator, relinquish the LGA Gates and Facilities to the airport operator to enable the Acquirer to lease them from the airport operator on terms and conditions determined by the airport operator, and shall make best efforts to obtain any consent or approval from the relevant airport operator for the divestitures required by this paragraph;
4. Defendants shall make reasonable best efforts to facilitate any re-locations necessary to ensure that the Acquirer(s) can operate from contiguous gates at LGA to the extent such relocation does not unduly disrupt Defendants' operations.
5. Following the divestiture of the LGA Slots, if requested by the Acquirer(s), Defendants shall lease the LGA Slots from the Acquirer for no consideration for a period not to exceed 180 calendar days. Defendants shall continue to operate the LGA Slots during this lease-back period at a level sufficient to prevent the LGA Slots from reverting to the Federal Aviation Administration pursuant to 71 FR 77,854 (Dec. 27, 2006), as extended by 78 FR 28, 279 (Oct. 24, 2013). The lease-back period may be extended at the sole discretion of the Acquirer(s), with the approval of the United States, in consultation with the Plaintiff States.
H. The Court orders the divestiture of the Key Airport Gates and Facilities, to proceed as follows:
1. Defendants shall either (a) lease to the Acquirers the Key Airport Gates and Facilities on the same terms and conditions pursuant to which the Defendants currently lease the Key Airport Gates and Facilities, or (b) with the consent of the United States, pursuant to an agreement with the airport operator, relinquish the Key Airport Gates and Facilities to the airport operator to enable the Acquirer to lease them from the airport operator on terms and conditions determined by the airport operator;
2. Defendants shall make best efforts to obtain any consent or approval from the relevant airport operator for the transfer(s) required by this Section;
3. With respect to the Divestiture Assets at Boston Logan International Airport, Defendants shall make reasonable best efforts to facilitate any re-locations necessary to ensure that the Acquirer(s) can operate from contiguous gates at the Key Airport, to the extent such relocation does not unduly disrupt Defendants' operations.
I. In accomplishing the divestiture ordered by this Final Judgment, Defendants promptly shall make known, by usual and customary means, the availability of the Divestiture Assets to Acquirer(s). Defendants shall inform any such person contacted regarding a possible purchase of the Divestiture Assets that they are being divested pursuant to this Final Judgment and provide that person with a copy of this Final Judgment. Defendants shall offer to furnish to all prospective Acquirers, subject to customary confidentiality assurances, all information and documents relating to the Divestiture Assets customarily provided in a due diligence process except such information or documents subject to the attorney-client privileges or work-product doctrine. Defendants shall make available such information to the United States at the same time that such information is made available to any other person.
J. As part of their obligations under paragraph IV.I. above, Defendants shall permit prospective Acquirers of the Divestiture Assets to have reasonable access to: (i) Personnel; (ii) the physical facilities of the Divestiture Assets to make reasonable inspections; (iii) all environmental, zoning, and other permit documents and information; and (iv) all financial, operational, or other documents and information customarily provided as part of a due diligence process.
K. Defendants shall warrant to the Acquirer(s) that each asset will be operational on the date of transfer.
L. Defendants shall not take any action that will impede in any way the permitting, operation, or divestiture of the Divestiture Assets.
M. Defendants shall warrant to the Acquirer(s) that there are no material defects in any environmental, zoning or other permits obtained or controlled by Defendants pertaining to the operation of the Divestiture Assets, and that following the sale of the Divestiture Assets, Defendants will not undertake, directly or indirectly, any challenges to the environmental, zoning, or other permits relating to the operation of the Divestiture Assets.
N. Unless the United States otherwise consents in writing, the divestiture pursuant to Section IV or V shall include the entire Divestiture Assets, and shall be accomplished in such a way as to satisfy the United States, in its sole discretion, in consultation with the Plaintiff States, that the Divestiture Assets can and will be used by the Acquirer(s) as part of a viable, ongoing business, engaged in providing scheduled air passenger service in the United States. Divestiture of the Divestiture Assets may be made to Acquirers, provided that in each instance it is demonstrated to the sole satisfaction of the United States, in consultation with the Plaintiff States, that the Divestiture Assets will remain viable and the divestiture of such assets will remedy the competitive harm alleged in the Complaint. The divestiture, whether pursuant to Section IV or Section V of this Final Judgment, shall be:
1. made to an Acquirer(s) that, in the United States' sole judgment, in consultation with the Plaintiff States, has the intent and capability (including the necessary managerial, operational, technical and financial capability) to compete effectively in the business of providing scheduled airline passenger service; and
2. accomplished so as to satisfy the United States in its sole discretion, in consultation with the Plaintiff States, that none of the terms of any agreement between an Acquirer(s) and Defendants gives Defendants the ability unreasonably to raise the Acquirer's costs, to lower the Acquirer's efficiency, or otherwise to interfere in the ability of the Acquirer(s) to effectively compete.
V. Appointment of Trustee To Effect Divestiture
A. If Defendants have not divested the Divestiture Assets within the time periods specified in Sections IV.A.—IV.D., Defendants shall notify the United States and the Plaintiff States of that fact in writing. Upon application of the United States, the Court shall appoint a Divestiture Trustee selected by the United States, in consultation with the Plaintiff States, and approved by the Court to divest the Divestiture Assets in a manner consistent with this Final Judgment.
B. After the appointment of a Divestiture Trustee becomes effective, only the Divestiture Trustee shall have the right to sell the Divestiture Assets, including any arrangements related to Associated Ground Facilities. The Divestiture Trustee shall have the power and authority to accomplish the divestiture to an Acquirer(s) acceptable to the United States in its sole discretion, in consultation with the Plaintiff States, at such price and on such terms as are then obtainable upon reasonable effort by the Divestiture Trustee, subject to the provisions of Section IV, V, and VI of this Final Judgment, and shall have such other powers as this Court deems appropriate.
C. Subject to Section V.E. of this Final Judgment, the Divestiture Trustee may hire at the reasonable cost and expense of Defendants any investment bankers, attorneys, or other agents, who shall be solely accountable to the Divestiture Start Printed Page 71404Trustee, reasonably necessary in the Divestiture Trustee's judgment to assist in the divestiture.
D. Defendants shall not object to a sale by the Divestiture Trustee on any ground other than the Divestiture Trustee's malfeasance. Any such objections by Defendants must be conveyed in writing to the United States, the Plaintiff States and the Divestiture Trustee within ten (10) calendar days after the Divestiture Trustee has provided the notice required under Section VI.A.
E. The Divestiture Trustee shall serve at the cost and expense of Defendants, pursuant to a written agreement with Defendants on such terms and conditions as the United States approves, in consultation with the Plaintiff States, and shall account for all monies derived from the sale of the assets sold by the Divestiture Trustee and all costs and expenses so incurred. After approval by the Court of the Divestiture Trustee's accounting, including fees for its services and those of any professionals and agents retained by the Divestiture Trustee, all remaining money shall be paid to Defendants and the trust shall then be terminated. The compensation of the Divestiture Trustee and any professionals and agents retained by the Divestiture Trustee shall be reasonable in light of the value of the Divestiture Assets and based on a fee arrangement providing the Divestiture Trustee with an incentive based on the price and terms of the divestiture and the speed with which it is accomplished, but timeliness is paramount.
F. Defendants shall use their best efforts to assist the Divestiture Trustee in accomplishing the required divestiture. The Divestiture Trustee and any consultants, accountants, attorneys, and other persons retained by the Divestiture Trustee shall have full and complete access to the personnel, books, records, and facilities of the business to be divested, and Defendants shall develop financial and other information relevant to such business as the Divestiture Trustee may reasonably request, subject to reasonable protection for trade secret or other confidential research, development, or commercial information. Defendants shall take no action to interfere with or to impede the Divestiture Trustee's accomplishment of the divestiture.
G. After its appointment, the Divestiture Trustee shall file monthly reports with the United States, the Plaintiff States, and the Court setting forth the Divestiture Trustee's efforts to accomplish the divestiture ordered under this Final Judgment. To the extent such reports contain information that the Divestiture Trustee or Defendants deem confidential, such reports shall not be filed in the public docket of the Court. Such reports shall include the name, address, and telephone number of each person who, during the preceding month, made an offer to acquire, expressed an interest in acquiring, entered into negotiations to acquire, or was contacted or made an inquiry about acquiring any interest in the Divestiture Assets, and shall describe in detail each contact with any such person. The Divestiture Trustee shall maintain full records of all efforts made to divest the Divestiture Assets.
H. If the Divestiture Trustee has not accomplished the divestiture ordered under this Final Judgment within six (6) months after its appointment, the Divestiture Trustee shall promptly file with the Court a report setting forth (1) the Divestiture Trustee's efforts to accomplish the required divestiture, (2) the reasons, in the Divestiture Trustee's judgment, why the required divestiture has not been accomplished, and (3) the Divestiture Trustee's recommendations. To the extent such reports contain information that the Divestiture Trustee deems confidential, such reports shall not be filed in the public docket of the Court. The Divestiture Trustee shall at the same time furnish such report to the Defendants and to the United States, which shall have the right to make additional recommendations consistent with the purpose of the trust. The Court thereafter shall enter such orders as it shall deem appropriate to carry out the purpose of the Final Judgment, which may, if necessary, include extending the trust and the term of the Divestiture Trustee's appointment by a period requested by the United States.
VI. Notice of Proposed Divestitures
A. Within two (2) business days following execution of a definitive divestiture agreement, Defendants or the Divestiture Trustee, whichever is then responsible for effecting the divestitures required herein, shall notify the United States and the Plaintiff States, of any proposed divestitures required by Section IV or V of this Final Judgment. If the trustee is responsible, it shall similarly notify Defendants. The notice shall set forth the details of the proposed divestitures and list the name, address, and telephone number of each person not previously identified who offered or expressed an interest in or desire to acquire any ownership interest in the Divestiture Assets, together with full details of the same.
B. Within fifteen (15) calendar days of receipt by the United States of such notice, the United States, in its sole discretion, in consultation with the Plaintiff States, may request from Defendants, the proposed Acquirer(s), any other third party, or the Divestiture Trustee, if applicable, additional information concerning the proposed divestitures, the proposed Acquirer(s), and any other potential Acquirer(s). Defendants and the Divestiture Trustee shall furnish any additional information requested to the United States within fifteen (15) calendar days of receipt of the request, unless the parties otherwise agree.
C. Within thirty (30) calendar days after receipt of the notice, or within twenty (20) calendar days after the United States has been provided the additional information requested from Defendants, the proposed Acquirer(s), any third party, and the trustee, whichever is later, the United States, in consultation with the Plaintiff States, shall provide written notice to Defendants and/or the Divestiture Trustee, stating whether it objects to the proposed divestitures. If the United States provides written notice that it does not object, the divestitures may be consummated, subject only to the Defendants' limited right to object to the sale under Section V.D. of this Final Judgment. Absent written notice that the United States does not object to the proposed Acquirer(s) or upon objection by the United States, a divestiture proposed under Section IV or Section V shall not be consummated. Upon objection by Defendants under Section V.D., a divestiture proposed under Section V shall not be consummated unless approved by the Court.
VII. Monitoring Trustee
A. Upon the filing of this Final Judgment, the United States may, in its sole discretion, in consultation with the Plaintiff States, appoint a Monitoring Trustee, subject to approval by the Court.
B. The Monitoring Trustee shall have the power and authority to monitor Defendants' compliance with the terms of this Final Judgment, and shall have such powers as this Court deems appropriate. The Monitoring Trustee shall be required to investigate and report on the Defendants' compliance with this Final Judgment and the Defendants' progress toward effectuating the purposes of this Final Judgment.
C. Subject to Section VII.E of this Final Judgment, the Monitoring Trustee may hire at the cost and expense of Defendants, any consultants, accountants, attorneys, or other persons, who shall be solely accountable to the Start Printed Page 71405Monitoring Trustee, reasonably necessary in the Monitoring Trustee's judgment.
D. Defendants shall not object to actions taken by the Monitoring Trustee in fulfillment of the Monitoring Trustee's responsibilities under this Final Judgment or any other Order of this Court on any ground other than the Monitoring Trustee's malfeasance. Any such objections by Defendants must be conveyed in writing to the United States, the Plaintiff States, and the Monitoring Trustee within ten (10) calendar days after the action taken by the Monitoring Trustee giving rise to the Defendants' objection.
E. The Monitoring Trustee shall serve at the cost and expense of Defendants, pursuant to a written agreement with Defendants on such terms and conditions as the United States, in consultation with the Plaintiff States, approves. The compensation of the Monitoring Trustee and any consultants, accountants, attorneys, and other persons retained by the Monitoring Trustee shall be on reasonable and customary terms commensurate with the individuals' experience and responsibilities. The Monitoring Trustee shall, within three (3) business days of hiring any consultants, accountants, attorneys, or other persons, provide written notice of such hiring and the rate of compensation to Defendants.
F. The Monitoring Trustee shall have no responsibility or obligation for the operation of Defendants' businesses.
G. Defendants shall use their best efforts to assist the Monitoring Trustee in monitoring Defendants' compliance with their individual obligations under this Final Judgment. The Monitoring Trustee and any consultants, accountants, attorneys, and other persons retained by the Monitoring Trustee shall have full and complete access to the personnel, books, records, and facilities relating to compliance with this Final Judgment, subject to reasonable protection for trade secret or confidential research, development, or commercial information or any applicable privileges. Defendants shall take no action to interfere with or to impede the Monitoring Trustee's accomplishment of its other responsibilities. The Monitoring Trustee shall, within three (3) business days of hiring any consultants, accountants, attorneys, or other persons, provide written notice of such hiring and the rate of compensation to Defendants.
H. After its appointment, the Monitoring Trustee shall file reports every ninety (90) days, or more frequently as needed, with the United States, the Plaintiff States, the Defendants and the Court setting forth the Defendants' efforts to comply with their individual obligations under this Final Judgment. To the extent such reports contain information that the trustee deems confidential, such reports shall not be filed in the public docket of the Court.
I. The Monitoring Trustee shall serve until the completion of the divestitures required by Sections IV and V of this Final Judgment, including any lease back period pursuant to Section IV.F.5. or IV.G.5.
Defendants shall not finance all or any part of any purchase made pursuant to Section IV or V of this Final Judgment. For purposes of this Section VIII, subleasing shall not be regarded as financing.
IX. Asset Preservation
Until the divestiture required by this Final Judgment has been accomplished, Defendants shall take all steps necessary to comply with the Asset Preservation Stipulation and Order entered by this Court. Defendants shall take no action that would jeopardize the divestiture ordered by this Court.
A. Within twenty (20) calendar days of entry of the Court entering the Asset Preservation Order and Stipulation in this matter, and every thirty (30) calendar days thereafter until the divestiture has been completed under Section IV or V, Defendants shall deliver to the United States and the Plaintiff States an affidavit as to the fact and manner of its compliance with Section IV or V of this Final Judgment. Each such affidavit shall include the name, address, and telephone number of each person who, during the first twenty (20) calendar days or, thereafter, the preceding thirty (30) calendar days, made an offer to acquire, expressed an interest in acquiring, entered into negotiations to acquire, or was contacted or made an inquiry about acquiring, any interest in the Divestiture Assets, and shall describe in detail each contact with any such person during that period. Each such affidavit shall also include a description of the efforts defendants have taken to solicit buyers for the Divestiture Assets, and to provide required information to prospective Acquirers, including the limitations, if any, on such information. Assuming the information set forth in the affidavit is true and complete, any objection by the United States to information provided by Defendants, including limitation on information, shall be made within fourteen (14) calendar days of receipt of such affidavit.
B. Within twenty (20) calendar days of the Court entering the Asset Preservation Order and Stipulation in this matter, Defendants shall deliver to the United States an affidavit that describes in reasonable detail all actions defendants have taken and all steps Defendants have implemented on an ongoing basis to comply with Section IX of this Final Judgment. Defendants shall deliver to the United States an affidavit describing any changes to the efforts and actions outlined in Defendants' earlier affidavits filed pursuant to this section within fifteen (15) calendar days after the change is implemented.
C. Defendants shall keep all records of all efforts made to preserve and divest the Divestiture Assets until one year after such divestiture has been completed.
XI. Compliance Inspection
A. For the purposes of determining or securing compliance with this Final Judgment, or of any related orders such as any Asset Preservation Order, or of determining whether the Final Judgment should be modified or vacated, and subject to any legally recognized privilege, from time to time authorized representatives of the United States Department of Justice, including consultants and other persons retained by the United States, shall, upon written request of an authorized representative of the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division, and on reasonable notice to Defendants, be permitted:
(1) Access during Defendants' office hours to inspect and copy, or at the option of the United States, to require Defendants to provide hard copy or electronic copies of, all books, ledgers, accounts, records, data, and documents in the possession, custody, or control of Defendants, relating to any matters contained in this Final Judgment; and
(2) to interview, either informally or on the record, Defendants' officers, employees, or agents, who may have their individual counsel present, regarding such matters. The interviews shall be subject to the reasonable convenience of the interviewee and without restraint or interference by Defendants.
B. Upon the written request of an authorized representative of the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division, Defendants shall submit written reports or response to written interrogatories, under oath if requested, relating to any of the matters Start Printed Page 71406contained in this Final Judgment as may be requested.
C. No information or documents obtained by the means provided in this section shall be divulged by the United States to any person other than an authorized representative of the executive branch of the United States, except in the course of legal proceedings to which the United States is a party (including grand jury proceedings), or for the purpose of securing compliance with this Final Judgment, or as otherwise required by law.
D. If at the time information or documents are furnished by Defendants to the United States, Defendants represent and identify in writing the material in any such information or documents to which a claim of protection may be asserted under Rule 26(c)(7) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and Defendants mark each pertinent page of such material, “Subject to claim of protection under Rule 26(c)(7) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,” then the United States shall give Defendants ten (10) calendar days notice prior to divulging such material in any legal proceeding (other than a grand jury proceeding).
XII. No Reacquisition
Defendants shall not reacquire any interest in any part of the Divestiture Assets divested under this Final Judgment during the term of this Final Judgment. Nothing in this Final Judgment shall prevent Defendants from engaging in trades, exchanges, or swaps involving Divestiture Assets with an Acquirer, provided such arrangements do not increase Defendants' percentage of slots operated or held or gates operated or held at the airport in question, except that, consistent with industry practice, Defendants may temporarily operate slots for periods of no more than two consecutive months at the request of the Acquirer. Nothing in this Section XII shall prevent Defendants from acquiring additional slots, gates or facilities, other than the Divestiture Assets, at DCA, LGA or the Key Airports subject to the notification requirement in Section XIII.A. Nothing in this Section shall prevent Defendants from cooperating in gate or facility re-locations in the ordinary course of the airport operator's business, including re-locating to the Divestiture Assets, provided the Acquirer of those gates is offered alternative gates and Associated Ground Facilities from the airport operator.
XIII. Notification of Future Transactions
A. Unless such transaction is otherwise subject to the reporting and waiting period requirements of the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 18a (the “HSR Act”), Defendants shall not acquire any interest in any slot at DCA that was in use at the completion of the Transaction without providing notice to the United States at least thirty (30) calendar days prior to the acquisition, provided however that this reporting requirement shall not apply to transactions that do not result in an increase in Defendants' percentage of slots operated or held at DCA. Defendants shall maintain a record of any non-reportable transactions and shall provide such record to the United States promptly upon request.
B. Any notification provided pursuant to Section XIII.A. above shall be provided in the same format as required by the HSR Act, and shall include the names of the principal representatives of the parties to the transaction who negotiated the agreement and any management or strategic plans discussing the proposed transaction. If within the 30-day period after notification the United States makes a written request for additional information regarding the transaction, Defendants shall not consummate the proposed transaction or agreement until thirty (30) calendar days after submitting all such additional information. Early termination of the waiting periods in this paragraph may be requested and, where appropriate, granted in a similar manner as applicable under the requirements and provisions of the HSR Act and rules promulgated thereunder.
C. All references to the HSR Act in this Final Judgment refer to the HSR Act as it exists at the time of the transaction or agreement and incorporate any subsequent amendments to the HSR Act.
For purposes of Section 365 of the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978, as amended, and codified as 11 U.S.C. 101 et seq. (the “Bankruptcy Code”) or any analogous provision under any law of any foreign or domestic, federal, state, provincial, local, municipal or other governmental jurisdiction relating to bankruptcy, insolvency or reorganization (“Foreign Bankruptcy Law”), (a) no sublease or other agreement related to the Divesture Assets will be deemed to be an executory contract, and (b) if for any reason a sublease or other agreement related to the Divesture Assets is deemed to be an executory contract, the Defendants shall take all necessary steps to ensure that the Acquirer(s) shall be protected in the continued enjoyment of its right under any such agreement including, acceptance of such agreement or any underlying lease or other agreement in proceedings under the Bankruptcy Code or any analogous provision of Foreign Bankruptcy Law.
XV. Retention of Jurisdiction
This Court retains jurisdiction to enable any party to this Final Judgment to apply to this Court at any time for further orders and directions as may be necessary or appropriate to carry out or construe this Final Judgment, to modify any of its provisions, to ensure and enforce compliance, and to punish violations of its provisions.
XVI. Expiration of Final Judgment
Unless this Court grants an extension, this Final Judgment shall expire ten (10) years from the date of its entry.
XVII. Public Interest Determination
Entry of this Final Judgment is in the public interest. The parties have complied with the requirements of the Antitrust Procedures and Penalties Act, 15 U.S.C. 16, including making copies available to the public of this Final Judgment, the Competitive Impact Statement, and any comments thereon and the United States' responses to comments. Based upon the record before the Court, which includes the Competitive Impact Statement and any comments and response to comments filed with the Court, entry of this Final Judgment is in the public interest.
Court approval subject to procedures of the Antitrust Procedures and Penalties Act, 15 U.S.C. § 16
The Honorable Colleen Kollar-Kotelly,
United States District JudgeStart Printed Page 71407
|JetBlue Slots (currently held by American)|
|Additional American Air Carrier Slots|
|US Airways Air Carrier Slots|
|Up to five (5) gates from among Gates 24, 26, 28, 30 and 32, if necessary.|
|Southwest Slots (currently held by American)|
|American LGA Slots|
|Up to two contiguous gates on Concourse C currently leased by American at LGA.|
Exhibit C—Key Airport Gates
Boston Logan International Airport
Two gates that Defendants currently lease or two gates that Defendants would be entitled to occupy following any relocation of gates and facilities at the direction of Massport.
Chicago O'Hare International Airport
Gates L1 and L2. Defendants, at their own expense, will reconfigure Gate L2A, L2B, and L2C, as follows: Gate L2A will be restored to a mainline gate by (a) removing the gate at L2B, (b) moving the gate podium that currently serves Gate L2C south, creating one additional bay for gate L2A, and restriping the tarmac. Defendants will retain their interest in Gate L2C.
Dallas Love Field
Gates currently leased by American at Dallas Love Field, or which American will be entitled to occupy following completion of construction of the Love Field Modernization Program.
Los Angeles International Airport
Gates 31A and 31B in Terminal 3.
Miami International Airport
Two gates currently leased by US Airways in Terminal J.End Preamble
1. “Multiple Airlines” refers to an itinerary where a passenger uses different airlines for their departing and returning flights.Back to Citation
2. Michigan joined the group of Plaintiff States on September 5, 2013; Texas withdrew from the lawsuit on October 1, 2013 after reaching a settlement with the Defendants. References to Plaintiff States include Michigan and exclude Texas.Back to Citation
3. Slots at Reagan National are designated as either “air carrier,” which may be operated with any size aircraft, or “commuter,” which must be operated using aircraft with 76 seats or less.Back to Citation
4. Two carriers—Hawaiian Airlines and Alaska Air—are technically “legacy” carriers, as they have operated interstate service since prior to deregulation and rely on hub-and-spoke networks, but each operates in a narrow geographic region.Back to Citation
5. JetBlue and American currently engage in an exchange in which JetBlue trades 24 slots at New York's JFK International Airport to American in exchange for American trading 16 slots at Reagan National to JetBlue. Southwest currently leases ten slots from American at LaGuardia.Back to Citation
6. We estimate that each gate can support between eight and ten round trips per day and thus, two gates at each of these key airports will provide for commercially viable and competitive patterns of service for the recipients of the divested gates.Back to Citation
7. Under legislation known as the Wright Amendment, airlines operating out of Love Field may not operate nonstop service on aircraft with more than 56 seats to any points beyond Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri or Alabama.Back to Citation
8. The 2004 amendments substituted “shall” for “may” in directing relevant factors for a court to consider and amended the list of factors to focus on competitive considerations and to address potentially ambiguous judgment terms. Compare 15 U.S.C. 16(e) (2004), with 15 U.S.C. 16(e)(1) (2006); see also SBC Commc'ns, 489 F. Supp. 2d at 11 (concluding that the 2004 amendments “effected minimal changes” to Tunney Act review).Back to Citation
9. Cf. BNS, 858 F.2d at 464 (holding that the court's “ultimate authority under the [APPA] is limited to approving or disapproving the consent decree”); United States v. Gillette Co., 406 F. Supp. 713, 716 (D. Mass. 1975) (noting that, in this way, the court is constrained to “look at the overall picture not hypercritically, nor with a microscope, but with an artist's reducing glass”). See generally Microsoft, 56 F.3d at 1461 (discussing whether “the remedies [obtained in the decree are] so inconsonant with the allegations charged as to fall outside of the `reaches of the public interest'”).Back to Citation
10. See United States v. Enova Corp., 107 F. Supp. 2d 10, 17 (D.D.C. 2000) (noting that the “Tunney Act expressly allows the court to make its public interest determination on the basis of the competitive impact statement and response to comments alone”); United States v. Mid-Am. Dairymen, Inc., 1977-1 Trade Cas. (CCH) ¶ 61,508, at 71,980 (W.D. Mo. 1977) (“Absent a showing of corrupt failure of the government to discharge its duty, the Court, in making its public interest finding, should . . . carefully consider the explanations of the government in the competitive impact statement and its responses to comments in order to determine whether those explanations are reasonable under the circumstances.”); S. Rep. No. 93-298, 93d Cong., 1st Sess., at 6 (1973) (“Where the public interest can be meaningfully evaluated simply on the basis of briefs and oral arguments, that is the approach that should be utilized.”).Back to Citation
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BILLING CODE C
[FR Doc. 2013-28224 Filed 11-26-13; 8:45 am]
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