A Justice Department ruling on the $12.3-billion acquisition of US Airways Group by United Airlines could come as early as this week, sources close to the deal said.
In what a source described as a "critical week for discussions," executives from United parent UAL Corp., US Airways, American Airlines and the newly created DC Air were to meet today at Justice Department headquarters with senior department officials including Deputy Atty. Gen. R. Hewitt Pate, as well as officials from state attorney general offices of New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland. Pate is overseeing the deal within the antitrust agency.
The airline executives are expected to outline what they consider to be the deal's competitive benefits. The executives also are to discuss proposed anti-competitive remedies that would appease antitrust concerns. The remedies include splitting up the ownership of US Airways' East Coast shuttle operations between United and American.
The Justice Department cannot prevent United from buying US Airways, but it can threaten to sue to stop the deal on competitive concerns.
In an attempt to complete the deal, US Airways executives have apparently taken the lead in presentations and discussions with Justice Department officials. Executives from the Arlington, Va.-based airline have said the acquisition is US Airways' best chance of long-term survival in an increasingly competitive industry.
On July 11, United reluctantly joined US Airways in giving the Justice Department a 21-day advance notice that the two carriers would try to complete the deal, which has an Aug. 1 termination date.