American Airlines and US Airways want the Justice Department to explain why it approved four previous mergers but filed an antitrust suit to block theirs.
The airlines sought in a federal court filing Friday to force DOJ to turn over documents related to those mergers. In the 111-page motion, the airlines accused the government of "a dramatic change in its view of consolidation."
American and US Airways also wondered, incredulously, why the Justice Department considered the documents in the previous four mergers "off-limits" in the current case.
"DOJ seeks to prevent Defendants from learning the facts on which it approved the other four mergers," the motion said.
The government filed suit last month against the $11 billion deal, which would create the world's largest airline. The case is scheduled to go to trial in federal district court in Washington in late November.
An excerpt from the motion:
"Over the past eight years, DOJ has approved four airline mergers similar to the one at issue here. Each time, DOJ issued press releases explaining that, after careful consideration, it had determined that the merger would enhance competition in the airline industry and benefit the traveling public.
"Those mergers—the 2005 US Airways-America West Airlines merger, the 2008 Delta Air Lines-Northwest Airlines merger, the 2010 United AirlinesContinental Airlines merger, and the 2011 Southwest Airlines-AirTran merger—spurred competition and allowed United and Delta to create broad airline networks with global reach.
"But in the Amended Complaint, DOJ alleges that those mergers “hurt passengers” and that the American Airlines-US Airways merger would exacerbate the harm caused by the previous mergers.
"Even more remarkable than DOJ’s abrupt and unexplained reversal is the fact that it contends that the dramatic change in its view of consolidation in the airline industry is off-limits in the discovery process here. DOJ seeks to prevent Defendants from learning the facts on which it approved the other four mergers.
"But DOJ cannot assert that the American-US Airways merger should be blocked because it could cause the same results as the prior mergers, and, at the same time, contend that those mergers have no relevance here. Plaintiffs raised this line of inquiry themselves, and the discovery sought will be used to demonstrate that this merger offers significant procompetitive benefits. Accordingly, Plaintiffs should be compelled to provide the requested discovery."