JetBlue appears to have become frontrunner in the bidding war against Frontier to take over US ultra-budget carrier Spirit Airlines.
While Florida-based Spirit continues to urge support for a merger with Frontier, a shareholder vote on the proposal has been delayed for the fourth time.
The special meeting has been pushed back from July 15 to July 27.
The latest twist came after Frontier declined to raise its offer in an ongoing bidding war with JetBlue.
Spirit continues to recommend shareholders back a merger with Frontier while discussions continue with both suitors.
A deal with either Denver-based Frontier or JetBlue would create the fifth largest US airline group.
Frontier chief executive Barry Biffle said earlier this week that Spirit should consider a revised merger agreement put forward last month as its “last, best and final offer.”
He also expressed his company’s willingness to waive its right to match JetBlue’s latest offer.
Spirit signed a cash-and-shares deal with Frontier in February to form a new no-frills airline and compete against big national carriers. JetBlue made a counter all-cash offer in April.
JetBlue chief executive Robin Hayes insisted on Wednesday that his airline was “standing ready” to enter into a binding merger agreement with Spirit.
He said: “We remain encouraged by the significant progress made in our ongoing discussions with Spirit.
“Additionally, Frontier has now confirmed that it does not intend to make any further changes to the terms of its latest proposal and that Spirit shareholders should consider it to be Frontier’s last, best and final offer, and itself has acknowledged that Spirit remains ‘very far’ from receiving approval for that transaction.
“Despite this and Spirit’s shareholders repeated and now increasingly public acknowledgements that JetBlue’s latest proposal is clearly superior in every respect, by moving the special meeting again, the Spirit board is delaying the ability of Spirit shareholders to receive JetBlue’s superior terms.
“JetBlue is now standing ready to enter into a binding merger agreement with Spirit as soon as practicable and at the latest, immediately following Spirit shareholders voting against the Frontier transaction on July 27, 2022.”