Here’s why the JetBlue-Spirit merger could lead to higher ticket prices

BOSTON — JetBlue Airways reached a deal to buy low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines for $3.8 billion, the companies announced Thursday. The merger would make JetBlue the fifth largest airline in the country, with about 9 percent of the market.

But Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights, a website that helps travelers find the cheapest fares, believes the deal could end up costing consumers more down the road.

“I think the end result of a potential merger between Spirit and JetBlue is going to be higher fares than there would be otherwise,” Keyes said.

The reason? Keyes said competition between airlines is the single most important factor when it comes to cheap flights, and less competition is never good for the consumer.

“This merger is potentially bad news for cheap flight lovers, even if you never fly Spirit,” Keyes said. “Competition between airlines is the single biggest determinate of how many cheap flights you see on a given route. Nobody has cheaper fares on most routes than Spirit. They really anchor the market.”

Caryan Davis flies with JetBlue four times a year. She said she doesn’t mind paying more for her ticket, as long as the plane is on time and service is good.

“I’d rather be comfortable and pay a little but more and get my complimentary snacks as well other than pay a low fare and not get the service I think I deserve,” David said.

You won’t see Spirit Airlines changing colors overnight. Keyes said airline mergers take years to complete, assuming the deal is approved by the federal government.

“You’re talking about a years-long process for regulatory approval. It’s not as simple as slapping a fresh coat of paint on the outside of Spirit planes,” Keyes said. “There are a thousand different factors that airlines run on, including labor contracts, new interiors, IT systems to book reservations, all the things that need to merge from two to one.”

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