Alaska Airlines Plans to Buy Hawaiian Airlines in $1.9 Billion Deal – The New York Times

Alaska Airlines announced plans Sunday to acquire Hawaiian Airlines in a $1.9 billion deal.

The combined airline will retain the Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines brands, but with a single operating platform, Alaska Airlines said in a news release. The company would serve 138 destinations, including nonstop flights to airports in the Americas, Asia, Australia and the South Pacific.

For Hawaii residents, the company would offer three times the current number of destinations from the state to destinations across North America, either nonstop or connected.

“With Alaska Airlines, we join an airline that has long served Hawaii and has a complementary network and shared service culture,” Peter Ingram, president and CEO of Hawaiian Airlines, was quoted as saying in the press release.

The deal is likely to face scrutiny from federal regulators. The Justice Department under President Biden has aggressively enforced antitrust laws and brought lawsuits to prevent mergers, acquisitions and other deals that could harm competition in various industries, including aviation.

Last year, the department successfully sued to block a partnership between American Airlines and JetBlue Airways in New York and Boston. The company is also currently suing to stop JetBlue from buying Spirit Airlines. A federal trial on the lawsuit is expected to conclude this week, with closing arguments scheduled for Tuesday.

The Spirit acquisition is expected to provide the rapid growth that has eluded JetBlue in recent years. In 2016, JetBlue lost a bidding war with Alaska for Virgin America.

The airline industry in the United States is dominated by four airlines – Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines – all of which achieved their size through mergers. United, the fourth-largest airline, controls about 16 percent of the market, according to federal data. Alaska is the fifth largest airline at 6.4 percent, followed by JetBlue at 5.5 percent.

If Spirit sales are allowed to continue, JetBlue will grow and control more than 10 percent of the market. If Alaska is allowed to buy Hawaiian, the combined company will control just over 8 percent of the market.

Unions representing thousands of workers in Alaska and Hawaii, including flight attendants, office workers, airport workers and other employees, said they would work closely with the airlines to ensure workers benefit from the merger.

“Our first priority is to determine whether this merger will improve conditions for flight attendants as much as the benefits the companies have described for shareholders and consumers,” said the Association of Flight Attendants, the 9,000 workers in Alaska and Hawaii, and thousands several other airlines said in a statement. “Our support for the merger will depend on this.”

There is relatively little overlap in the airlines’ service offerings. Alaska and Hawaiian only compete on about 3 percent of the routes they offer together. These routes, which connect airports in Hawaii with those in major West Coast cities, represent about 6.7 percent of the seats the airlines flew overall last year, according to Cirium, an aviation data provider.