Lawmakers Seek More Scrutiny for Frontier-Spirit Merger

Letter from members of U.S. Senate and House urges Biden administration to ‘closely review’ airline deal.

Members of the U.S. House and Senate are urging the Biden administration to “closely review” Frontier Airlines’ planned acquisition of Spirit Airlines because of concerns the combined company “would further concentrate and even monopolize the ultra-low-cost carrier, or ULCC, segment of the industry.”

The group of lawmakers including Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.) and Bernie Sanders, (I-Vt.), and Representatives Rasshida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), said they sent a letter outlining their concerns to Jonathan Kanter, assistant attorney general for the antitrust division of the U.S. Department of Justice, and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. In the letter they urged the Justice Department “to closely review this mega merger” for potential violations of antitrust laws. 

On February 7, Frontier announced its plan to buy Spirit in a $6.6 billion deal that would create the nation’s fifth-largest airline. Currently, Frontier, based in Denver, Colorado, and Spirit, based in Miramar, Florida, are the two largest ultra-low-cost carriers in the U.S.

The lawmakers said, “A merger between the two would result in a company that is four times larger than the nearest ULCC competitor.” The group also said the deal could lead to increased prices and lower-quality service for passengers, and lower wages for workers.

“Pilots, flight attendants, and other workers in the airline industry would lose an alternative employer, and Spirit-Frontier would face less competitive pressure to offer better compensation and labor conditions to their employees,” the lawmakers said.

Since announcing the acquisition, Frontier and Spirit have said the deal will further “democratize” air travel in part by making more ultra-low fares available to travelers. 

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