A JetBlue plane lands past a Spirit Airlines jet on taxiway at Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport on Monday, April 25, 2022. (Joe Cavaretta/Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Joe Cavaretta | Sun Sentinel | Getty Images
Spirit Airlines shareholders have approved an acquisition by JetBlue Airways after a six-month battle to create the nation’s fifth largest airline, a deal that now faces a high hurdle with federal regulators.
Spirit announced the result of the vote on Wednesday after a special shareholders’ meeting. In April, JetBlue made a $3.8 billion cash offer for Spirit, derailing Spirit’s plan for a cash-and-stock deal to merge with Frontier Airlines.
The airlines expect to complete the transaction by the first half of 2024 at the latest.
But they now have to convince federal regulators that the deal won’t hurt competition or drive up tariffs for consumers, a major hurdle to getting the deal approved.
The Biden administration has taken a tough stance against deals they claim harm consumers. The Justice Department is currently fighting in court in Boston against JetBlue’s existing partnership with American Airlines in the Northeast.
If the acquisition is approved, JetBlue plans to do away with the Spirit brand, which is known for its ultra-low airfare and easy service with surcharges for add-ons such as carry-on luggage. The New York-based airline, on the other hand, offers more generous onboard space, seat back screens, and business class on some aircraft.
“This is an important step forward on our path to closing a combination that will represent the most attractive national low-fare challenger to the dominant U.S. carriers,” said Ted Christie, CEO of Spirit Airlines, on the release. “We look forward to continuing our ongoing discussions with regulators as we work to complete the transaction and deliver value to team members, guests and shareholders.”