Airlines dealt setback in merger-lawsuit trial

DALLAS (AP) - A court-appointed official says American Airlines and US Airways shouldn't get to know the names of all the people that the government interviewed and what they said before the Justice Department sued to block the airlines' proposed merger.

The official, called a special master, recommended Thursday that the federal judge hearing the case reject the airlines' request.

The official said that the airlines were trying to learn what facts mattered to the government, which he said could give them insight into the thinking and legal strategy of the Justice Department lawyers. He said that kind of information is protected as the work product of lawyers preparing for a lawsuit or trial.

The special master, who was hired to help the judge consider pretrial requests, also recommended that the judge largely reject the airlines' request for information about government approval of four earlier airline mergers. He said the information was relevant to the American-US Airways deal but that most of it was protected as internal government deliberations and the work of its lawyers.

American and US Airways issued a statement saying that they were reviewing the recommendations made to U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly.

"We are confident in our legal position and our ability to win this case," the airlines said.

The companies were close to completing their deal and creating the world's biggest airline when the Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit in August. The government said that the merger would limit competition and lead to higher prices.

A trial is scheduled to start Nov. 25 in Washington.

The market, which has pushed US Airways Group Inc. shares higher since merger speculation began in late 2011, shrugged off the news. In afternoon trading, US Airways shares rose 47 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $20.53; and over-the-counter shares of American parent AMR Corp. were up 11 cents to $5.13. Those were bigger percentage gains than for United, Delta, Southwest or JetBlue.


(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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