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Airlines say US case against big merger is flawed

American and US Airways dispute the government’s assertion that the merger will reduce competition.

Susan Walsh/Associated Press/File

American and US Airways dispute the government’s assertion that the merger will reduce competition.

DALLAS — American Airlines and US Airways say that the government’s opposition to their planned merger shows that it doesn’t understand the airline industry.

The Justice Department and several states sued last month to block the merger, on the grounds that it would hurt consumers.

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The airlines said in court filings that the Justice Department’s analysis of the merger ignores competition that exists from low-cost carriers such as Southwest. American says that the government instead relies on ‘‘anecdotes involving small numbers of passengers’’ and an outdated vision of the industry.

Also, the chief executive of each airline promised to ask his board of directors to approve extending the merger agreement beyond its mid-December expiration date, said three people familiar with the situation.

An extension could be significant because a trial on the government’s lawsuit against the merger is scheduled to begin Nov. 25, and there might not be a decision until after the December deadline.

The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the plan to extend the merger agreement came up during private discussions. The extension was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

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