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U.S. sues to block United Airlines from taking Delta's Newark slots

Staff writer |
The U.S. Justice Department said it has sued to stop United Continental Holdings from acquiring 24 takeoff and landing slots at Newark Liberty International Airport from Delta Air Lines.

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That could possibly thwart United's expansion plans at its New Jersey hub.

"There are 35 million air passengers who fly into and out of Newark every year. And we know that airfares at Newark are among the highest in the country while United's service at Newark ranks among the worst," said Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer on a call with reporters.

"This transaction will reduce competition by removing from the hands of a competitor, in this case Delta, a scarce resource that it needs to compete with United at Newark."

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for New Jersey in Newark, alleges that the acquisition would lead to higher fares and fewer choices for travelers.

Delta took over United's slots at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and then United planned to acquire Delta's slots at Newark, where it is making a $2 billion investment to provide customers with access to connecting flights, new restaurants and technology displays.

United ended its JFK service after seven years of failing to profit. Delta began flights with the JFK slots on November 1.

The Justice Department said that United already controls 73 percent of the slots at Newark, which are authorizations from the Federal Aviation Administration to take off from or land at the airport.

It also said United allegedly "grounds" as many as 82 slots each day at Newark, limiting flight opportunities.

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