American and JetBlue won't be automatically blocked from entering into agreements similar to their Northeast Alliance with other domestic airlines, a federal district court has ruled.
The ruling is a small victory for the two carriers as they prepare to formally terminate their Northeast Alliance in Boston and New York on July 29.
The Justice Department had sought language in the final order that would have prevented JetBlue and American from entering into any agreement with another domestic carrier for two years that would have revenue sharing and schedule coordination in a manner similar to the Northeast Alliance.
In an order Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Leo Sorokin said that the court's role was to take measures against anticompetitive effects of the JetBlue-American alliance, but not to go beyond that.
"The court finds such a prohibition is not necessary to achieve the appropriate aims of antitrust relief, which depend considerably on the particular circumstances of the case," Sorokin wrote. "Here, those circumstances include the nature of the defendants' business models, the characteristics of the NEA agreements, and the specific geographic region and markets for air travel that were impacted by the defendants' conduct."
Domestic airlines, under standard procedure, must submit codeshare and other agreements for approval from the DOT prior to launch.
The Justice Department had also sought a five-year provision requiring that American and JetBlue give the department's antitrust division, plus relevant state attorneys general, notification prior to entering into codeshare partnerships with other domestic carriers. And it wanted a monitoring trustee appointed to ensure American's and JetBlue's compliance with the final order.
Sorokin denied those requests, as well.
The two carriers stopped selling codeshare flights and doing reciprocal loyalty accruals on new bookings on July 21.
Under the final order, the two airlines can continue their 100-plus arrival and departure slot lease agreements at New York's JFK and LaGuardia airports for now. But they must submit their plans to wind down those agreements within 45 days.
Sorokin ruled in May that the Northeast Alliance removed competition between American and JetBlue in the Northeast and elsewhere and must be unwound.