Feds Clear United-Continental Merger

United and Continental airlines have received clearance from the Justice Department for their proposed merger.

The Justice Department says it conducted a thorough investigation and has no antitrust concerns about the deal which would create the world's largest airline.

On the way to approval, the carriers did agree to leasing some landing and takeoff rights to low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines in Newark, opening the door to more competition in the New York market. Continental is the biggest player at Newark, where United also flies.

Southwest will get slots in both peak and off-peak times at Newark, and plans to operate 18 flights there by June.

Airline consultant Mike Boyd tells The Associated Press the carriers' giving up the few slots was a small price to pay.

"United and Continental want to get this merger done," Boyd says, and if federal regulators "stick their nose in there and say, 'Give something up,' they're going to give it up."

Having cleared the Justice Department, the United and Continental merger deal goes to shareholders of both carriers on Sept. 17. Still needed is final Transportation Department approval, but the airlines say they now expect the deal to close Oct. 1.

The combined airline would replace Delta Air Lines as the Big Kahuna of the industry.

Photo courtesy of United and Continental airlines
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