The chief executive of Alaska Airlines (AS, Seattle Tacoma International) told the JP Morgan conference this week that the United States Department of Justice's recent vetoing of the proposed merger between Spirit Airlines (NK, Fort Lauderdale International) and JetBlue Airways (B6, New York JFK) was unlikely to impact his plan to merge Alaska with Hawaiian Airlines (HA, Honolulu).

“I think the judge was clear in saying that he’s blocking the deal because of the elimination of an ultra-low-cost carrier that has benefit to consumers in the country,” Ben Minicucci told the March 12 conference. “In our deal, it’s nowhere near that. Our deal is completely different. We’re actually the low-cost, low-fare airline acquiring Hawaiian."

In December 2023, Alaska announced it had agreed to buy Hawaiian Airlines from Hawaiian Holdings for around USD1.9 billion. The transaction included Alaska assuming about USD900 million of Hawaiian's debts. Hawaiian shareholders later approved the merger, which will see the two distinct airline brands remain, but it is still subject to DOJ approval. Minicucci said Alaska would provide the department with more detail by May and that it expected more information on a decision timeframe by June.

Minicucci again flagged the lack of overlap in the two carriers' networks and said the merger would allow the Alaska/Hawaiian entity to better compete against United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and Southwest Airlines. He pointed out that the four big airlines are dominant in 23 of the top 25 US travel markets. "Now we can get relevance and two [Seattle Tacoma International and Honolulu] of the top 25 markets and do something pretty unique," he said. "It’s hard to say that there’s a lot of negative with what we’re trying to do."

He said that while the two airlines would retain their individual identities, the combined entity would not use "the IAG model"; the branding will be different but there will be one set of labour rules, one pilot group, one flight attendant group, one mechanic group, and one air operator's certificate.

In January, a US District Court judge blocked the proposed merger between JetBlue and Spirit, citing competition concerns. Initially, the two carriers indicated they would appeal the decision but dropped plans to do so earlier this month after determining that any appeal had little prospect of success.