Spirit shareholders approve takeover by JetBlue after long battle for discount airline

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A JetBlue airliner lands past a Spirit Airlines jet on taxi way at Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport on Monday, April 25, 2022. (Joe Cavaretta/Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Joe Cavaretta | Sun Sentinel | Getty Images

Spirit Airlines shareholders have approved a takeover by JetBlue Airways after a six-month battle to create the country’s fifth-largest carrier, a deal that now faces a high hurdle with federal regulators.

Spirit announced the results of the vote after a special shareholder meeting on Wednesday. In April, JetBlue made a $3.8 billion all-cash offer for Spirit, derailing Spirit’s plan for a cash-and-stock deal to merge with Frontier Airlines.

The airlines said they expect to close the transaction no later than the first half of 2024.

But they now must convince federal regulators that that agreement won’t harm competition or drive up fares for consumers, a major hurdle in getting the takeover approved.

The Biden administration has taken a hard stance against deals they argue will harm consumers. The Justice Department is currently battling JetBlue’s existing partnership with American Airlines in the Northeast in court in Boston.

If the takeover is approved, JetBlue plans to do away with the Spirit brand, known for its ultra-low airfares and bare-bones service with fees for add-ons like carry-on bags. The New York-based carrier, by contrast, offers more generous space on board, seatback screens and on some planes, business class.

“This is an important step forward on our path to closing a combination that will create the most compelling national low-fare challenger to the dominant U.S. carriers,” Spirit Airlines CEO Ted Christie said a the release. “We look forward to continuing our ongoing discussions with regulators as we work toward completing the transaction and delivering value to Team Members, Guests and stockholders.”

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