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Texas drops opposition to US Airways merger

By Andrea Ahles
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

FORT WORTH, Texas Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced Tuesday he is dropping the state’s opposition to a merger between American Airlines and US Airways after gaining pledges that the carriers will preserve jobs and service in Texas.

During a news conference with American Airlines CEO Tom Horton at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Abbott said the carriers committed to continuing air service to 22 rural Texas communities and keeping the company’s headquarters in Texas for three years.

Since the airlines announced plans for the merger earlier this year, they have said that the combined airline would put its headquarters in Fort Worth. Charlotte would be the combined airline’s second-busiest hub, behind Dallas/Fort Worth.

When the U.S. Department of Justice filed its antitrust suit against the merger in August, Abbott led a group of states that said the deal is anti-competitive, would cut service at some airports, and would hurt consumers with higher ticket prices and fees. Abbott, a Republican, is currently running for governor.

Texas, Arizona, Tennessee, Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and the District of Columbia were all part of the suit, which is scheduled to go to trial Nov. 25 in a federal court in Washington, D.C.

No shutdown delay

Also Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in Washington denied a request from the Department of Justice to temporarily halt the antitrust trial because of the government shutdown.

The government attorneys had said in a two-page filing that they are prohibited from working because of the lack of funding from Congress that resulted in a partial government shutdown Tuesday.

“Although we greatly regret any disruption caused to the court and the other litigants, the United States hereby moves for a stay of all proceedings in this case until funding is restored and Department of Justice attorneys are permitted to resume their usual civil litigation functions,” the filing said.

In her two-page ruling, Kollar-Kotelly said a stay would be inappropriate and that there is a “need for the prompt resolution of this matter.”

Ruling may come in Jan.

At a pre-trial hearing earlier Tuesday, Kollar-Kotelly had said the trial will continue as previously scheduled. Arguments should take 12 to 15 days, with the trial wrapping up in mid-December.

According to media reports, the judge also indicated that she might not rule on the case until early January. The carriers had hoped a decision on the antitrust suit would come before the holidays.

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