(Adds Justice Department statement, paragraphs 3, 4)
April 25 A federal judge on Friday approved the
November settlement between the U.S. government and the airlines
that merged to form American Airlines Group, the world's
U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said the
settlement, which required American to sell takeoff and landing
rights at airports in the New York and Washington areas and
airport gates in five other cities, was "within the reaches of
the public interest." She said a hearing was not needed.
In Washington, the Justice Department's Antitrust Division
welcomed the decision.
"We're pleased that the court agreed that the department's
remedy will enhance system-wide competition in the airline
industry," head of the Antitrust Division William Baer said in a
statement. "History has shown that when low cost carriers have
entered the market, consumers benefit."
In August, the U.S. Justice Department sued to block the
merger of AMR Corp and US Airways, saying it would hurt
consumers by leading to higher airfares. Several states
including Arizona and Texas joined the lawsuit, filed in U.S.
District Court for the District of Columbia.
American and US Airways reached an agreement settling the
lawsuit in November, and the merger was completed in December.
In her opinion, Kollar-Kotelly stated the U.S. government's
position that divestitures to low-cost carriers would reduce
anti-competitive effects of the merger was "entitled to the
Southwest Airlines and Virgin America acquired
takeoff and landing rights, or slots, at New York's LaGuardia
and Reagan National near Washington that American sold. JetBlue
Airways also gained slots at Reagan National.
The case is United States vs US Airways Group Inc, No.
1:13-cv-01236, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
(Reporting by Karen Jacobs in Atlanta: Additional reporting by
Diane Bartz in Washington; Editing by Sandra Maler and)