WASHINGTON, Aug. 27 (UPI) -- The U.S. Justice Department said Friday it has approved the proposed merger of United Airlines Inc. and Continental Airlines Inc.
In a statement posted on its Web site, the department said approval of the $3 billion merger came after United and Continental agreed to transfer takeoff and landing rights "and other assets at Newark (N.J.) Liberty Airport to Southwest Airlines Co."
The decision clears the way for the merger to be completed within a few weeks, The New York Times reported. United and Continental shareholders are to vote on the merger Sept. 17.
Once the merger is completed, the airlines will continue to operate separately for one year but they will be owned jointly by United Continental Holding Inc., the Times said. The combined company will be based in Chicago and will supplant Delta Air Lines as the largest U.S. air carrier.
United and Continental currently account for 21 percent of the domestic airline capacity as measured by available seat miles -- one seat flown 1 mile.
United and Continental said July 20 they had reached a critical agreement on combining their pilots as part of the merger. They will have to negotiate a new contract with their combined pilot staff once the merger is completed.