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JetBlue to Acquire Spirit Airlines to Form Fifth Largest US Airline

It's pitching the merger as a "low-fare challenger" to America's big air carriers.

A JetBlue passenger plane above the runway.
JetBlue is acquiring Spirit Airlines.

JetBlue reached an agreement to acquire the discount airline Spirit Airlines for $3.8 billion, it said Thursday. The deal would make JetBlue the fifth largest airline in the US and increase the budget carrier's reach and ability to compete with other large airlines, it noted in a press release.

The deal comes after Spirit's shareholders rejected an acquisition agreement with Frontier Airlines. That rejection was the culmination of a months-long fight by JetBlue to break up the Frontier-Spirit agreement, announced in February. JetBlue revised its offer multiple times in an effort to sweeten the deal and pry Spirit away from Frontier. 

The combined JetBlue and Spirit Airlines will have 77 million customers, and the merger will give JetBlue more than 1,700 new daily flights, the release said.

The deal needs approval from antitrust regulators and Spirit's stockholders. JetBlue expects the deal to close no later than the first half of 2024.