The recent ruling against the JetBlue-Spirit merger is a classic tale of government intervention in the free market (purportedly to protect consumers), but doing so in a way that will only help big businesses.
First, let's address the elephant in the room: the antitrust argument. Antitrust laws are designed to prevent monopolies and ensure fair competition. However, the blocking of this merger by a federal judge seems to contradict the essence of a free market economy. It's almost laughable to suggest that combining JetBlue and Spirit would create a monopoly-like entity, especially considering the size and market share of giants like United, American, Delta, and Southwest.
The judge's decision, spanning a hefty 113 pages, argues that the merger would eliminate one of the few primary competitors in the industry, leading to higher fares and fewer choices. But here's the irony – Spirit Airlines is struggling. Its financial health is dismal, and its stock prices are plummeting. The merger with JetBlue was not just a business move; it was a lifeline.
Let's talk about consumer choice. The argument that this merger would reduce choices for consumers seems flawed. What choices do consumers have if Spirit goes bankrupt? A failing airline doesn't offer competition; it becomes a non-entity in the market.
Moreover, the decision seems to ignore the reality of the airline industry. It's an industry that's been heavily consolidated over the years, partly due to previous government policies and regulations. Blocking this merger doesn't suddenly diversify the industry; it merely maintains the status quo, where the big players continue to dominate.
President Biden's statement that "capitalism without competition isn't capitalism, it's exploitation" sounds good on paper but seems disconnected from the complexities of the airline industry. If Spirit collapses, the big airlines could swoop in, buy assets at bargain prices, and further solidify their market dominance. How does that foster competition?
The real winners here, ironically, are not consumers or small airlines but the legal teams and the already established major airlines. The lawyers pocket hefty fees, and the big airlines avoid a potentially stronger competitor.