Alaska Airlines & Hawaiian Deal Stalled Pending DOJ Probe

Graphic of Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines aircraft flying together.
Photo Credit: Alaska Airlines

The proposed merger between Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines has met with a temporary delay. On March 27, 2024, both airlines entered into a “timing agreement” with the United States Department of Justice (DOJ).

This agreement puts the brakes on finalizing the merger until certain conditions are met.

Merger Plans and Regulatory Hurdles

Originally announced in December 2023, the deal would see Alaska Airlines acquire Hawaiian Airlines in an all-cash transaction.

The combined entity would create a major player in the West Coast and Pacific Island airline market. However, mergers of this size often trigger scrutiny from antitrust regulators to ensure fair competition.

The DOJ, tasked with enforcing antitrust laws, stepped in with a request for additional information from both airlines in February 2024.

This second request for data is standard practice in such mergers, allowing the DOJ to assess the potential impact on competition in routes and pricing.

Hawaiian Airlines Inducts First Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner
Photo Credit: Hawaiian Airlines.

The Timing Agreement Explained

The timing agreement essentially establishes a waiting period after the airlines address the DOJ’s concerns. Here’s how it works:

  • Compliance with Antitrust Data Request: Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines must provide the DOJ with all the requested antitrust-related information and documents.

Once the DOJ certifies that they have substantially complied with this request, the 90-day clock starts ticking.

  • 90-Day Waiting Period: Following DOJ certification, both airlines are prohibited from finalizing the merger for a period of 90 days.

This waiting period allows the DOJ to thoroughly analyze the data and determine if the merger raises any antitrust concerns.

This agreement effectively delays the merger timeline. While the exact date for completion remains uncertain, it won’t happen before the 90-day period elapses after the DOJ approves the airlines’ response.

Why the Delay Matters

The timing agreement signifies a crucial step in the regulatory approval process for the Alaska Air-Hawaiian Airlines merger. Here’s why it matters:

  • Ensuring Fair Competition: The DOJ’s review aims to protect consumers by preventing monopolies or reduced competition in specific routes.

The analysis ensures that the merger doesn’t lead to higher prices or fewer flight options for passengers.

  • Transparency and Cooperation: The agreement highlights the airlines’ commitment to cooperating with the DOJ throughout the process.

This transparency is vital in order to ensure a smooth regulatory review takes place.

  • Impact on Stakeholders: The delay might cause uncertainty for employees, investors, and travelers.

However, it also allows for a more thorough review, potentially leading to a more stable and competition-compliant merger in the long run.

Render of a Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner in flight.
Image Credit: Hawaiian Airlines

Looking Ahead: Next Steps

The focus now shifts to the airlines fulfilling the DOJ’s data request. Once they provide the necessary information and receive DOJ approval, the 90-day waiting period will commence. During this time, the DOJ will continue its antitrust review.

News outlets will likely follow the developments closely, keeping stakeholders informed of any updates or changes to the timeline.

Travelers with upcoming flights on either airline can expect normal operations to continue for now.

The Alaska Air-Hawaiian Airlines merger has the potential to reshape the airline landscape in the West Coast and Pacific regions.

While the DOJ’s review adds a temporary hurdle, it ultimately aims to ensure a fair and competitive market for air travel.

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 4 Min Read
4 Min Read
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