United & Continental Merger Clears Antitrust Hurdle

by  Elissa Garay | Aug 30, 2010
Continental Airlines plane
Continental Airlines plane / icholakov/iStock

The pending United–Continental merger has been on Savvy Flyer’s radar since it was first announced in early May, but it cleared the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust review in record time as of Friday, getting the green light for the $3 billion merger, which is now expected to close in full by October 1 (following a stockholders’ approval voting in mid-September). The newly merged airline, which will operate under the United name, is set to usurp Delta Air Lines as the world’s largest carrier (a title Delta earned itself following its merger with Northwest in 2008). So what does it all mean for travelers? Unfortunately, we fear this newly birthed behometh could give way to higher fares, thanks to an exepcted capacity cut on consolidated routes, and less competition to stave off spiked fares. The one immediate silver lining, however, which came as a result of the antitrust review, is that Continental will now lease 18 pairs of takeoff and landing slots at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) – a major hub for Continental, servicing New Jersey and nearby New York City – to budget airline darling Southwest Airlines, in hopes of eliminating concerns for healthy competition in that particular market. This is good news for NYC-area travelers, who will now have increased accessed to Southwest's famously reasonable fares, which short of a few routes of out New York's LaGuardia Airport (LGA), have been long absent for travelers there.

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