Alaska Airlines on Sunday announced plans to acquire Hawaiian Airlines in a $1.9 billion deal.
The combined airline will maintain the Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines brands but with a single operating platform, Alaska Airlines said in a news release. The company would provide service to 138 destinations, including nonstop flights to airports in the Americas, Asia, Australia and the South Pacific.
For residents in Hawaii, the company would offer three times the current number of destinations from the state to destinations throughout North America, either nonstop or with one connection.
“In Alaska Airlines, we are joining an airline that has long served Hawaii, and has a complementary network and a shared culture of service,” Peter Ingram, president and CEO of Hawaiian Airlines, was quoted as saying in the news release.
The deal is likely to face close scrutiny by federal regulators. The Justice Department has aggressively enforced antitrust laws under President Joe Biden, suing to prevent mergers, acquisitions and other deals that could decrease competition in various industries, including aviation.
Last year, the department successfully sued to prevent a partnership between American Airlines and JetBlue Airways in New York and Boston. It is also suing to stop JetBlue from buying Spirit Airlines. A federal trial over that lawsuit is expected to wrap up this week, with closing arguments scheduled for Tuesday.
The Spirit acquisition is expected to deliver 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 carriers – Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines – all of which achieved their size with the help of mergers. United, the fourth-largest carrier, controls about 16% of the market, according to federal data. Alaska is the fifth-largest carrier, with 6.4%, followed by JetBlue, with 5.5%.
If the Spirit sale is allowed to proceed, JetBlue will grow to control more than 10% of the market. If Alaska is allowed to buy Hawaiian, the combined company will control just over 8% of the market.
The Association of Flight Attendants union, which represents about 9,000 flight attendants at Alaska and Hawaiian, said that its support for the deal would depend on the benefits to workers.
“Our first priority is to determine whether this merger will improve conditions for flight attendants just like the benefits the companies have described for shareholders and consumers,” the union, which also has members at other airlines, said in a statement. “Our support of the merger will depend on this.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.