An appeals court in Boston in the United States has said it will hear arguments in June in a bid by JetBlue Airways (B6, New York JFK) and Spirit Airlines (NK, Fort Lauderdale International) to overturn a federal judge’s decision last month to block JetBlue’s planned USD3.8 billion acquisition of the ultra-low-cost carrier.

“We contemplate argument during the court’s June sitting,” the US First Circuit Court of Appeal’s expedited order dated February 2 said. “Extensions will be strongly disfavoured.”

The order told the airlines, as defendants, to file their initial brief by the end of February 26, to which the plaintiffs - the United States Department of Justice, six states, and the District of Columbia (i.e., Washington, D.C.) - were instructed to respond by the end of April 11. The defendants must then file their reply to that by the end of April 25.

JetBlue Airways and Spirit Airlines announced on January 19 that they were keeping their tie-up hopes alive by jointly filing a notice of appeal against the federal judge’s decision. On January 31, they asked for an expedited appeal so the court could hear arguments in May and make a ruling before a July 24 deadline in their merger contract to close the deal.

The schedule the expedited court order lays out is therefore slower than the airlines wanted. According to a Reuters report, the Department of Justice had pushed for a June timeline, claiming that merger closing dates can be renegotiated if more time is needed to judge antitrust challenges. The airlines disagreed, stressing that the merger is contingent on USD3.5 billion in financing that will expire on July 24, unless the lenders grant an extension.