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US Airways to DOJ: To whom have you been talking?

US Airways and American Airlines, fighting to save their planned merger, on Tuesday sought to force the U.S. Department of Justice to disclose whom it interviewed prior to blocking the combination.

The request for more information is the latest move in the legal wrangling ahead of a planned Nov. 25 trial on the merger. The DOJ sued unexpectedly last month to stop the merger, claiming it would hurt competition and force customers to pay more to fly.

On Tuesday, attorneys for US Airways and American filed a motion that would compel the DOJ to turn over the names of everyone investigators interviewed during the antitrust investigation, as well as what information the DOJ got from them.

“Plaintiffs investigated the challenged merger for many months before filing suit, interviewing third parties and gathering information they believe justifies their attempt to block the merger,” wrote the airlines’ attorneys. “Absent an order … those facts – some of which may undercut plaintiffs’ claims and support the merger – will remain locked away in plaintiffs’ files.”

The government objected to the airlines’ request. In a court filing, the DOJ said such information falls under exemptions granted to law enforcement and would give away too much about its case before the trial.

The airlines and the DOJ have met to discuss the request but haven’t been able to reach an agreement, according to filings.

A court-appointed “special master” will decide on the airlines’ motion.

US Airways and American announced their plans to merge and create the world’s largest airline in February. American is in bankruptcy and has staked its emergence on a combination with US Airways.

Charlotte would be the second-busiest hub in the combined airline, behind only Dallas/Fort Worth in terms of daily flights.

Although the airlines and the DOJ have both said they’re open to settling the case, neither side has proposed a settlement. Some aviation analysts have said the sweeping antitrust charges leveled by the government make any settlement unlikely.

Portillo: 704-358-5041 On Twitter @ESPortillo
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