The trial would begin the Monday before Thanksgiving.
"We are confident in our case and eager to get to court," the airlines said Friday, in a joint statement. "We are pleased to have a trial date that will enable us to resolve this litigation in a reasonable timeframe.
"We want the opportunity to compete together to enhance competition with the largest airlines in the U.S. - United (UAL - Get Report), Delta (DAL - Get Report) and Southwest (LUV - Get Report) - and a number of fast-growing low-cost carriers," the carriers said.DOJ has sued to block the merger. Kollar-Kotelly set the date at a pre-trial hearing that took place Friday morning. The airlines wanted a trial soon and had asked for Nov. 12. The DOJ wanted to wait six months, until March 3. An earlier trial could increase the pressure on the two sides to settle and would, of course, allow the airlines to make their case, which they believe is strong, sooner. If the trial date had been later, DOJ would have has little incentive to settle, partially because mergers have a tendency to fall apart over time if they do not take effect as scheduled. Early in the hearing, Kollar-Kotelly said: "March 3, I think, is too far off. It needs to be a tighter, expedited schedule." In a filing before the hearing, the airlines said a delay in implementing their planned merger is costing them $2.5 million a day. Follow @tedreednc -- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C. >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Ted Reed