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Spirit-JetBlue takeover wins shareholder approval

A JetBlue plane lands past a Spirit Airlines jet on taxiway 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 the shareholders have approved a takeover of JetBlue Airways after a six-month battle to create the nation’s fifth-largest carrier, a deal that now faces a major hurdle with federal regulators.

Spirit announced the results of the vote after a special meeting of shareholders on Wednesday. In April, JetBlue made an offer totaling $3.8 billion 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 by the first half of 2024 at the latest.

But they must now convince federal regulators that that deal won’t hurt competition or raise prices for consumers, a major obstacle to getting the takeover approved.

The Biden administration has taken a hard line against deals it claims will harm consumers. The Justice Department is currently fighting JetBlue’s existing partnership with American Airlines in the northeast of the court in Boston.

If the takeover is approved, JetBlue plans to shed the Spirit brand, known for its ultra-low fares and bare-bones service with fees for extras such as carry-on bags. The New York-based carrier, on the other hand, offers more generous space on board, seatback screens and, on some flights, business class.

“This is an important step forward on our path to closing a combination that will create the most compelling domestic low-cost challenger to the dominant U.S. airlines,” Spirit Airlines CEO Ted Christie said in 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 shareholders.”

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