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Judge sets antitrust trial on US airline merger plan

Customers check in at a US Airways ticket counter at Chicago's O'Hare airport on August 13, 2013
Customers check in at a US Airways ticket counter at Chicago's O'Hare airport on August 13, 2013. A US judge Friday set a November trial date for the government's antitrust suit against the proposed American Airlines-US Airways merger, handing a victory t

A US judge Friday set a November trial date for the government's antitrust suit against the proposed American Airlines-US Airways merger, handing a victory to the airlines.

US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said the trial would start on November 25, about two weeks later than the airlines had sought but months earlier than the Justice Department had proposed.

The department had wanted the trial to begin next March, saying it needed more time to gather evidence.

AMR, the parent of American Airlines, which is hoping to soon emerge from bankruptcy, and US Airways had argued in legal briefs that the government's proposed time frame was exceptionally slow compared with other antitrust cases, increased the firms' legal costs and raised uncertainty about the merger and American's plans for exiting bankruptcy.

The Justice Department had argued additional time was needed to gather the complex legal, factual and technical information to make its case.

It said that American's bankruptcy proceedings should not justify trying the case on an "incomplete" record and that a "rush to judgment" harms public interest.

The government has argued that the proposed merger would reduce competition and push up fares, hurting consumers. The Justice Department, in announcing the litigation on August 13, said a merged American-US Airways would create "the world's largest airline."

A joint American-US Airways statement praised the "reasonable time frame" of the trial date and said the airlines are "confident" of their case.

A Justice Department spokesman said, "We appreciate the court's careful consideration of the scheduling issues and will be ready to present our case on November 25, 2013."

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