The Justice Department can provide initial feedback within 30 to 60 days, but reviews are extended because companies seek to negotiate the extent of their divestitures, Kirby said. "DOJ takes a long time because companies choose to let it take a long time," he said. Regulators took 14 months to reject the proposed 2000 merger of US Airways with United ( UAUA). That is not a precedent, Kirby said, because, "The companies chose to have the process take 14 months because United got cold feet." Washington, D.C., antitrust attorney Jim Dick, who worked four years in the antitrust division, said he would expect a three- to five-month review. "Given the amount of data the DOJ would be reviewing and the complexity, they will want to figure very carefully what they would like the combination to divest," he said. It is likely that a first round of divestitures would include gates and other assets in Atlanta, and gates and slots at New York LaGuardia and Washington Reagan National airports, as well as the shuttle, Dick said. "Then they would focus on Charlotte," he said. "I think they'd like to see Charlotte divested as a hub, but I don't think that anybody would take a large chunk of it. So I think it's a matter of paring back there."
On a conference call last week, Kirby said US Airways' estimate of $1.65 billion in merger savings includes "a negative synergy" for divestitures, but declined to quantify the amount. Divestitures would result not only in lost revenue but also, potentially, in reductions of flight hours for pilots at Delta and US Airways. The Delta chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association remains "100% focused on killing this hostile merger and emerging as a standalone carrier," said chairman Lee Moak in an interview. "We will not be distracted." Union leaders voted last week to spend $15 million to defeat the merger, in addition to $2 million already spent. The money will go for legislative lobbying, antitrust counsel and a public relations effort, Moak said. He said the pilots' contract can prevent the merger because it denies US Airways the chance to achieve promised savings. In particular, the amount of flying by Delta pilots cannot decrease during a merger transition period until there is full operational integration, a period that would take years.