jetBlue Airways (B6, New York JFK) has filed a motion with the US Department of Transportation trying to block the proposed merger of two separate transatlantic joint ventures Delta Air Lines (DL, Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson) currently has with Virgin Atlantic (VS, London Heathrow) and Air France-KLM. The carrier said the new JV could adversely affect its own plans to serve Europe.

"If anti-trust immunity is granted, this powerful new joint venture, accompanied by recent complicated new cross-border equity investments, will negatively impact competition on both sides of the Atlantic. jetBlue hereby requests that the Department require the production of additional data and evidence and then, when the record is complete, to undertake a rigorous competitive analysis to account for the competitive developments of the past five years," the US carrier said.

jetBlue argued that since the existing JVs were approved in 2013, the state of the transatlantic market has changed enough to merit a new full investigation. In particular, the carrier points out that since 2013 US Airways was merged into American Airlines, Aer Lingus became a part of IAG International Airlines Group, and Primera Air Scandinavia (PF, Billund) has gone out of business. The carrier also indicates that Norwegian Group, an important transatlantic player, is being pursued by IAG, while the future of the Icelandic airlines is uncertain with WOW air up for sale. Finally, British Airways has also expanded its transatlantic capacity thanks to slots acquired from bmi british midland and Monarch Airlines.

"As jetBlue contemplates service to Europe, an expanded ATI grant to Delta in this case could have severe competitive implications and further restrict jetBlue’s ability to meaningfully serve the United Kingdom and European Union markets," the airline said.

jetBlue in particular pointed out that by combining the two separate mergers, the three groups would control a large pool of slots at London Heathrow, Amsterdam Schiphol, and Paris CDG, all important transatlantic hubs.

Among other things, jetBlue asked the DOT to analyse the slot allocation rules at Heathrow, London Gatwick, Paris CDG, and Amsterdam in light of potential new players entering these airports. It also filed for an analysis of the effects of Brexit on traffic rights and the plans for the third runway at Heathrow.