GRAPEVINE, Texas — The Texas attorney general added his support to the merger of American Airlines and US Airways, reversing a position he took six weeks ago when he joined a federal lawsuit aimed at blocking the deal.
Greg Abbott changed his position after the airlines put into writing promises that they had made, including a vow to keep the combined carrier’s headquarters in Texas and maintain a hub at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
Abbott said it was critical that the airlines agreed to preserve service to 22 cities in Texas for at least three years after the merger. Some of those are small cities, from Abilene to Wichita Falls, with limited air service.
In mid-August, Texas and several other states sided with the Department of Justice in filing an antitrust lawsuit to block the merger, which they argued would limit competition and drive up prices.
Business groups criticized Abbott for siding against a major Texas employer. Abbott, a Republican, is running for governor in the 2014 elections and could face state Senator Wendy Davis, a Fort Worth Democrat who backed the merger and asked the Justice Department to drop the lawsuit.
Abbott announced what he called a settlement of Texas’ part of the lawsuit Tuesday as he sat next to Tom Horton, the chief executive of American Airlines parent AMR Corp., during a news conference at the airport.
Abbott said the settlement was a legally enforceable promise to keep American’s headquarters in Fort Worth and preserve thousands of jobs in the state, something that had been ‘‘merely a stated intention.’’ He said other airlines had broken similar promises after they went through mergers.
Meanwhile, a judge ruled Tuesday that a November trial on the antitrust lawsuit will go ahead as scheduled despite the government shutdown.
The Justice Department asked for a delay, saying that the shutdown would hinder its ability to prepare for the trial in Washington.
US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said that merger had already been delayed by the lawsuit, and that American needs to resolve the antitrust case to complete its bankruptcy reorganization.