Spirit Airlines, once a fast-growing low-cost carrier, is struggling to convince investors that it has a clear path forward after an antitrust ruling blocked the sale of the company to JetBlue Airways.

A federal judge in Boston blocked the proposed merger on Tuesday, concurring with the Justice Department that the deal would hurt consumers by reducing their choices and raising fares. The airlines announced late Friday that they had jointly filed a notice of appeal.

Before it struck a deal with JetBlue in July 2022, Spirit was struggling. Unlike larger airlines, it never fully recovered from the early days of the pandemic in 2020. The budget airline is losing money, and some analysts say it is hard to see how Spirit can dig itself out of its financial hole without finding another buyer. Some airline experts say the carrier might have to file for bankruptcy protection.

“It’s a challenging financial picture for the company,” said Xavier Smith, director of energy and industrials research at AlphaSense.

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