The U.S. Department of Justice does not have to provide most of the work documents and the names of people it interviewed to American Airlines and US Airways attorneys as part of a pre-trial discovery process.The carriers had asked the federal court to force the government to turn over the documents as the two sides prepare for an antitrust trial set for Nov. 25. But in court filings made Thursday, Special Master Richard Levie recommended that federal judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly deny a request from the airlines’ attorneys for documents including DOJ’s analysis of previous airline mergers and third-party interviews.Levie, a retired judge brought into the case to consider pre-trial requests, also recommended that Kollar-Kotelly deny the carriers’ request to learn who the government interviewed during its investigation into the American-US Airways merger, such as executives at other airlines that may include JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines.“The Special Master determines that, although Defendants have established the relevance of their requests, the various privileges asserted by Plaintiffs protect almost all of the requested material from disclosure,” the filing said.Airline attorneys said Thursday they were reviewing Levie’s recommendations and their possible legal options including appealing the decisions.“We are confident in our legal position and our ability to win this case,” the carriers said in a joint statement. “We look forward to becoming the new American so that we can compete together and deliver the significant benefits of this combination to consumers and all of our stakeholders as soon as possible.”In August, the department and several state attorneys general filed an antitrust lawsuit to stop the merger, saying it would harm consumers with higher fares and more fees. Last week, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott withdrew from the suit after receiving assurances from the carriers that it would continue service to several Texas cities and maintain its headquarters in North Texas for three years.
Andrea Ahles, 817-390-7631 Twitter: @Sky_Talk