Court sets June hearing for JetBlue and Spirit appeal of a ruling blocking their $3.8 billion merger

BOSTON — JetBlue and Spirit Airlines will have to wait until June before a federal court hears their appeal of a ruling that blocked JetBlue’s proposed $3.8 billion purchase of the smaller rival.

The schedule set Friday by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston is a month later than the airlines had hoped. They asked for an expedited hearing in May so the court could rule before a July 24 deal-closing deadline in their merger agreement.

The appeals court ordered the airlines to file their pre-hearing briefs Feb. 26, with a response by the U.S. Justice Department due by April 11.

The Justice Department sued to block the merger last year, saying it would reduce competition and drive up fares, especially for travelers who depend on low-fare Spirit.

In January, a federal district judge in Boston sided with the government and blocked the deal, saying it violated antitrust law.

New York-based JetBlue had argued that the merger would help it compete more effectively against bigger airlines. However, the price tag looks less attractive because of continuing losses and other problems at Spirit, which is based in Miramar, Florida. Last week JetBlue warned that it might terminate the agreement.

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