WASHINGTON Aug 28 American Airlines
, US Airways and the U.S. Justice Department
said on Wednesday they were open to settling a court fight over
whether the two companies should be allowed to merge, but there
was no sign of an imminent agreement.
The Justice Department filed a lawsuit in mid-August, asking
a federal court to block the deal, which would form the world's
biggest air carrier. The government said the merger would lead
to higher prices for customers, while the companies said it
would make them more competitive and strengthen the market.
In a document filed jointly by the Justice Department and
the two companies on Wednesday, the government said it was "open
to a settlement that addresses the anticompetitive harms posed
by the merger but have not yet received any such proposal from
In its initial complaint, the department focused on Ronald
Reagan National Airport, outside Washington, D.C., where the two
companies own a combined 69 percent of takeoff and landing
slots. It also listed more than 1,000 city pairs where the two
airlines dominate the market.
The two airlines said in the joint filing with the district
court in Washington, D.C., that they had tried to settle the
case before the complaint was filed "and continue to believe
there ought to be a realistic possibility of settlement."
Two sources told Reuters earlier this week that there had
been little or nothing in the way of settlement discussions
before the complaint was filed. A person familiar with the
matter said that the companies had offered concessions to the
Justice Department but declined to describe them.
The two sides have been at loggerheads over a trial date.
The Justice Department initially asked for a February trial and
then amended that to March. The airlines asked for a November
The airlines complained about the proposed delay in a second
filing on Wednesday in which they said that the Justice
Department's proposed schedule would "place the merger at risk
regardless of its competitive benefits."
In the joint filing on Wednesday, the two sides asked the
judge to resolve the dispute at an initial scheduling conference
set for Friday.
Companies generally push for expedited trials in merger
challenges. Holding a deal together for months puts a strain on
the parties because they are essentially in limbo, unable to
merge and hampered in making independent long-range plans.
The case at the U.S. District Court for the District of
Columbia is No. 1:13-cv-012346-CKK.